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HORACE MARSHALL & SON. 125. Fleet Street. E.G. 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS. 597-599. Fifth Avenue. 



Vi 1 o <^ 

Pristod by J. H. LiTcnder <f Co.. 
2. DuBMia Temee. London. N. 1. 


IN days gone by it was customary for an author to 
apologise for the sin of adding another book ta 
the quantity abready published. 

I am sure there was a certain amount of cant in 
this attitude ; most authors are glad to see their works 
in print, and, as a rule^ they express the pious hope 
that the first edition will be sold out almost as soon as 
the ink is dry. 

The only apology I make is that I have not been 
able to add any more to the scanty knowledge respecting 
that talented — ^but most elusive — ^maker, Carlo Bergonzi. 
It is close upon ten years ago since I first commenced 
collecting material for a work on Bergonzi, during that 
time the opinions given on several instruments attributed 
to that glorious maker have been challenged by the 
experts of to-day. Indeed, one of the most reliable of 
the many who express expert knowledge on old Italian 
instruments says he has yet to come across a violoncello 
which he can truly say is the work of Carlo Bergonzi. 

So the matter has to be left still in doubt. Like 
the examples given to Joseph del Jesu — ^they will, 
from time to time crop up only to raise discussion 
for a few days, then once more will come some authority 
and ** give " the wonderful find to some lesser known 



Hbnlby's Down, 

Oatsfibld, Sussex. 


facisf page 









MUCH that is interesting has been written con- 
oeming the violoncello ; its history, its music — 
and quite a lot on how to play it. Very little advice, 
however, has been given which would assist the player 
in choosing an instrument, not only from a tonal point 
of view, but so that the instrument would be an asset 
to him should he eventually wish to dispose of it ; 
and scarcely anything at all has been said concerning 
the correct manner of its adjustment. 

I^e aim of the present work is chiefly to assist 
the professional or amateur violoncellist in selecting 
an instrument to suit his individual requirements, 
In order to do full justice to the subject, it will be 
necessary to give a rou^ sketch of the gradual 
development of the violoncello from its infancy to its 
perfection in the hands of Stradivari and Carlo Bergonzi, 
and through its imxumerable vicissitudes to the present 



day. Only by such a study can the devotee of the 
kmg of instniments hope to be able to seize any bargains 
which may come his way, or be in the position to reject 
without a pang any worthless example, no matter how 
alluring should be its "face value." 

It should be understood that the violoncello was 
much longer in its period of evolution than was the 
violin. Also fewer basses than violins were made, 
and at the same time viols and lutes were holding the 
attention of musicians and patrons. There is no wonder, 
then, that quite a century elapsed before we have 
the perfected form as given out by that genius Antonio 
Stradivari. It is a thousand pities that every maker 
after his time had not closely adhered to the wonderful 
perfection of model, outline, and dimensions which 
the *^ Wizard of Cremona " gave his famous master- 
pieces. Instead of that, we find makers who were 
slavishly copying the *' grand pattern " Stradivari 
violin, constructing violoncellos either so large that 
one must be a giant to play them, or so small that they 
are of no real use for really serious work. 

When submitting an instrument to a dealer, you 
will find the first thing he does is to take a tape-measure 
and test the principal dimensions ; if these are not 
right, the instrument is doomed from the commence- 
ment, as he knows it may remain on his hands for quite 
a considerable time before he comes across a client 
who requires an undersized violoncello. Next he inspects 
the outline and the model, the soundholes, and that 
tell-tale piece of work — ^the scroll. All these tell him 
something. Then comes the varnish, the purfling, 
the interior workmanship, and, perhaps the last, the 


label. Many dealers, however, profess to be quite 
superior to labels, declaring the instrument should 
" label itself " by the various characteristics mentioned. 

How differently does the professor choose a violon- 
cello. Fjrst and last, it is tone. He will apologize for 
a common looking instrument with his f amiUar remark, 
" But it has tone." Observe how he tries each string 
carefuUy in every position, tone and semitone. Looking 
out for the " wolf notes," the E flat on the G string, 
fourth position, etc. Each string for resonance and 
beauty of tone from the lowest to the highest positions. 
Then the faciUty with which the tone is produced 
in quick passages, and last, its carrying power. 

They are both optimists. Whereas the dealer knows 
that if the wood, the varnish, the dimensions and 
general build of the violoncello are all right, he can 
pretty soon make the tone passable— «ven if not 
originally good — ^by correct adjustment of bridge, 
soundpost, bass-bar, neck, etc. ; the professor knows 
that if the tone is aU right, bnild, varnish and every- 
thing goes by the board. 

I hope, in the ensuing chapters, to enUghten the 
reader on some of the methods adopted in choosing 
an instrument, and later, how to adjust it correct? 
in order to bring out its utmost tonal capacity. 


THE violoncello: 


MOST writers on the origin of the violoncello com- 
mence by saying : "The violoncello was developed 
from the Viol-da-gamba," giving the impression that 
the transition from viol to violoncello was direct. 
Personally, I think this is very far from the case. Of 
lutes and viols there were a great variety in the latter 
half of the sixteenth century ; Wasielewski mentions 
seven different kinds of viols corresponding to the 
viol, violoncello and contra-bass. That there were 
many others is certain from the great variety of pictures 
which one sees depicting the instruments of this period. 
Although many writers would like to claim Maggini 
as the inventor of the violoncello— if the term inventor 
can be applied — it will be found, I think, that all the 
so-called violoncellos of this period were, in reality, 
chamber basses, i.e., small contra-basses. Indeed, 
it can be claimed on very good authority that the 
origin of the violoncello is expressed in its name, which 
means " little bass." 

"Double-bass" in Italian is violone. At first, the 
small bass was named violoncino, the Italian " ino " 
meaning little. Later this was altered to violoncello, 
the affix "ello" also having a diminutive meaning. 


The abbreviation 'cello has, therefoie, no meaning 
whatever; it is, however, very frequently used, and 
I doubt whether it will ever fall into disuse, much 
as the pedant squirms against it. 

It is very interesting to observe the variotis forms 
which have been given the musical instrum^its of 
the period, by artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. Whether the instruments depicted were 
sketched £rom Ufe, or merely artistic conceptions it 
is difficult at this day to state. Much can be learned, 
however, by a close study of paintings by the early 
Italian Masters ; and as both music and painting were 
closely connected with the Church, we find that in 
many of the altar pieces and other church decorations 
the various figures are depicted playing lutes, viols, 
etc. ; some of which give us an idea, not only how the 
evolution of the violoncello came about, but also how 
the technique of bowing and fingering gradually evolved 
from the earliest times to the days when more reliable 
recpids were preserved. 

There is a wonderful picture in the Louvre, which 
I think explains, more than any other picture, the 
gradual development of the " violone," or contra-bass 
from the great bass viol. This is, to my mind, wrongly 
labelled "St. Cecilia playing upon a seven-stringed 
viola-da-gamba." A description of the picture will 
perhaps be interesting to those who have no opportunity 
of seeing the original in the Louvre, or one of the many 
reproductions. The picture is by Domenichino, an 
artist who worked in Rome and Naples 1581 to 1641, 
and who would therefore have every opportunity of 
being acquainted with the instruments of the period. 


The infitrument depicted is evidently a seven-stringed 
violone with some of the characteristics of the viola- 
da-gamba. The head is a carved viol head ; instead 
of the sloping shoulders proper to the viol tribe there 
is distinct evidence, first, of a smaUer upper bout, but 
without comers ; second, of properly constructed 
lower comers and curved lower bouts, equal in shape 
and proportions, except at the junction of the ribs, 
with the modem type of violoncello. The upper and 
lower tables project over the ribs, and another character- 
istic of the violoncello is the soundholes, the upper 
parts of which are the usual type, the lower part being 
fish-tail shape. The size of the instrument, however, 
precludes it from being a viol-da-gamba. St. Cecilia 
is portrayed as resting the instrument on a low stool 
or bench. The violone reaches from below her knee 
to above her head. Judging by the attitude of her 
arms, the instrument depicted must be almost twice 
the size of the usual viola-da-gamba type, as St. Cecilia's 
left arm is stretched upwards in the attitude adopted 
by double-bass players, whilst the right arm is at its 
full extent in order to reach down to the level for correct 
bowing. There do not appear to be any frets on the 
fingerboard. So altogether this picture is exceedingly 
interesting, proving my contention that the bass was 
the first stage in the evolution of the violoncello. There 
is distinct evidence that the early players, even on the 
violoncello only used the lower neck positions, and it 
was very late in the scheme, many, many years after 
violin technique had reached a very advanced stage, 
before violoncellists found the old large and cumbersome 
chamber bass unsuited to their requirements. 


This brings us to a point very interesting to the 
purchasers of old Italian or Brescian instruments. 
The ingenuity which has been used to transform these 
ancient viols and basses into violoncellos of modem 
type is worthy of a better cause. They have been 
cut and hacked about in all forms, pieces sawed oS 
the upper and lower bouts, modelled backs substituted 
for flat ones ; the old thin upper tables of viols thickened 
and strengthened, sloping shoulders cut away and upper 
curves nicely rounded, etc., etc. 

True violoncellos were made by Maggini — ^although 
the Messrs. Hill question this, stating that in their 
opinion the Maggini violoncellos were evidently con- 
structed as five-string viols — ^Andreas Amati, his two 
sons, Antonius and Hieronymus, the Ruger family, 
Andreas Guamerius, David Tecchler, and many others 
of less repute down to the time of Nicholas Amati 
and Antonio Stradivari. The large-sized instruments 
made by these makers were held in a variety of ways, 
sometimes they were fitted with a strap or chain which 
hung round the shoulders of the player. This was 
adopted, evidently, to allow the instrument to be 
played in procession. I have evidence that many of 
the early instruments were fitted with a short wooden 
stump or peg ; this was fitted, in some cases, quite 
out of the true, and evidently in addition to the true 
tail-peg. One can see traces of other methods of holding 
the violoncello in early days. Thus we find some 
violoncellos which show no signs of wear at all on the 
lower bouts, but which are knocked about and rubbed 
at the parts near the tail-pin ; in one case, a fine Carlo 
Bergonzi, I found the back was worn quite down at 


its lower edge, the round beaded edge being worn 
sharp. This proved that the violoncello had not been 
held between the knees as was customary at one time, 
but had been rested on a low sto<d or hassock. 

We see signs, towards the latter half of the seventeenth 
centory, id an attempt to improve the violoncello 
from its former cumbersome proportions. No doubt 
the players and composers of this time were awakening 
to the possibilities of the violoncello in chamber music, 
violins and violas being, at this period, almost at thek 
perfection. It only required the correct type of bass 
to complete that ideal combination, the string quartet ; 
and there is no wonder, then, that the Amatis, the 
Buggeris and that incomparable genius of all time, 
Antonio Stradivari, set their wits to work to make 
the bass equal to its sister instruments. 

The instruments made by Stradivari in his best 
p^od are incomparable. In outline, model, and finish 
it has not been possible to effect any improvement ; 
indeed, so correct are his proportions, that should 
modem makers attempt to alter the outline by one 
quajter of an inch, other parts have to be sUghtly 
adjusted, or the perfect ensepible of beautiful form, 
added to rich and lovely tone, is bound to suffer. Some 
makers of note, like the Ruggeris and Carlo Bergonzi, 
had their own particular ideas of proportions in reference 
to tone ; and those who are acquainted with the finest 
instruments of the latter maker have no hesitation in 
claiming for Bergonzi a place in the sun, equal, if not 
superior to Stradivari, with respect to several of his 
masterpieces. Those who have heard that glorious 
instrument in the hands of the finest artist of all time, 



The viola-da-gamba is interesting as it 
serves to show the transition between 
the lutes and the violin. The instru- 
ment here illustrated is attributed to 
Duiffoprugcar but it cannot be guar- 
anteed in all its parts. The table is 
evidently taken from another viol of a 
slightly later period. It is a seven- 
stringed viol and the beauty of the inlay 
is plainly shown in the photograph. 

To face page 8.1 

with the "Plan of Paris." 


Senor Pablo Casals, most admit that in violoncello 
constraction Carlo Bergonzi had reached the utmost 
acme of perfection. It may not be out of place to 
conclude this chapter with the dimensions of the violon- 
cello, as perfected by Stradivarius and Carlo Bergonzi. 

The length of body in the Stradivari violoncellos of 
the best period vary from 29| inches to 29 J. The 
earlier Strads were 31 inches, and even 31f , but this 
gives a '* stop " much too large for most modem players. 
The length which Stradivari adopted for most of the 
instruments made during the years 1710 to the end 
of his career is, I think, the most suitable, that is 29| 
to 29| inches. 

The width of the upper bouts varies from 13 inches 
to 13f , the width of the lower bouts are 16^ to 17f . 

The depth of the ribs at the lower bouts is 4| to 6 
inches, and at the upper bouts 4f to 4| inches. 

A Stradivari violoncello owned and played by the 
late Professor de Munck has the following dimensions, 
this instrument made in the year 1730, or thereabouts, 
may be taken as a good example of the smaller form 
of Stradivari violoncdlo. 

By the term *' smaller form" I mean in distinction 
to the slightly large instruments made prior to 1700. 
Most of these instruments were 31| inches to 31f. 

Length, 29^ inches. Width, 16f and 12H inches. 
Ribs, 4f and 4f inches. 

A violoncello by Carlo Bergonzi, dated 1720, and 
used by Mr. Cari Fuchs, the well-known Manchester 
professor, has the following dimensions : — ^Length, 
29| inches. Width, 17f and 14^ inches. Ribs, 4| 
inches and 4f inches good. 


Anotlier violoncello by Carlo Bergonzi, which I 
shall describe in detail later on, in reference to the fitting 
and adjustment, is slightly different in outline. The 
inner bouts are slightly less curved, and the comers a 
little more projecting. It has the following measure- 
ments, taken with a tape-measure over the modelling : 
Length, 29^ inches. Width, 17^ inches good and 14 
inches. Bibs, 4f inches and 4| inches good. 

Although there is only the difference of an eighth 
in the width of the lower bouts, and a quarter of an 
inch in the upper, these variations, taken with the 
slightly flattened curves of the inner bouts and elongated 
comers make quite a striking difference in the general 

Note. — ^The exceedingly fine instrument played by 
Senor Casals is now attributed to Gofriller. 



IT is exceedingly difficult for the uninitiated to appre- 
ciate the glorious works left us by the Italian 
makers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 

What is there about these old instruments of Cremona ? 
In what way are they superior to good old French or 
English instruments ? These questions are excusable, 
and they have troubled the minds — ^not only of amateurs 
— ^but of experts and connoisseurs ; men who have 
spent the greater part of their lives in close association 
with the instruments of every school. Many people 
have the impression that the early Italian instruments 
are merely "collectors' fiddles," and have no real 
value from a musical point of view. This can be refuted 
in several ways. In the first place, the ancient lutes 
and viols are scarce, and of interest to the collector, 
yet they do not command anything like the high prices 
which even an ordinary violoncello by an Italian maker 
will command. Then again, many of the so-called 
second-rate Italian makers left, perhaps, but few violon- 
cellos, in some cases, perhaps, only one or two ; if 
rarity is the only desideratum these instruments should 
conmiand higher prices than violoncellos by the elect 
of Cremona, the Amatis, the Guameris, the Rugeris 
or Stradivari and Bergonzi, yet such is not the case. 

The Italian instruments of the first class appeal in 


80 many different wajB to those who are interested in 
the subject. The painter is as astonished at the rich 
luminous varnish of Guameri, Stradivari, or Bergonzi 
as he is at the wonderful surface quality and rich colours 
of the masterpieces by the brothers Van Eyck, and 
indeed it seems as if the secret of both has been lost 
for ever. The draughtsman and the craftsman appre- 
ciate the wonderful outlines and modelling, the per- 
fection and surety of tool-work. The musician glories 
in the human voice-like character of tone — and what 
is more human than the tone of a fine Stradivari or 
Bergonzi violoncello ? The expert will often travel 
miles, nay hundreds of miles, merely to see and handle 
a well-known specimen ; but more important than all, 
the soloist knows that with a first-class Italian violon- 
cello in his hands he has a splendid medium for exhibiting 
his tone and technique. That soloists of the first rank 
are keen to possess a fine old Italian instrument, and 
will go through any privation sooner than be parted 
from it once it is their very own, can be proved by any 
who care to read the lives of eminent soloists of bygone 
days ; and note the struggle which many of them 
had to secure a fine solo instrument, and the loyalty 
with which they clung to it, often through long years 
of adversity. In some cases, when an artist has grown 
too old for concert work, or has fallen into evil days, 
his violoncello has been the one article he has persistently 
refused to part with, and no offers — even the tempting 
offer of a signed blank cheque — ^were sufficient to 
tempt him to dispose of it. 

There is one side of our subject which I think is 
exceedingly interesting. That is the manner in which 


all the principal makers reproduced in their larger 
instruments the same characteristics of outline, model, 
and, more amaring still, that individual tone-character 
which one finds in their violins. Thus, although there 
is often only a very slight difference between the early 
work of one maker horn that of his master, or between 
the instruments of several makers working in one 
atelier, yet we find as soon as a maker develops an 
individuality in his violins, it is also stamped indelibly 
on his violoncellos. 

It is very disappointing that Joseph GuameriusdelJesu 
did not leave us as many violoncellos as did Stradivari. 
There are still many experts who even now refuse to 
admit that Joseph del Jesu ever made a violoncello. 
I leave tiiat to the experts ; all the same^ specimens 
by that maker keep " cropping up." In Carl Schroeder's 
"Catechism of Violoncello Playing" occurs a most 
amazing statement. " After Gaspard da Salo, Maggini," 
etc., etc., " the best violoncelli were made by Antonius 
Stradivarius and his pupil Joseph Guamerius del Jesu,'* 
This was written in 1889, long before the discovery 
of the so-called " only violonceUo " made by Joseph 
del Jesu. That Joseph Guamerius could never have 
been a pupil of Stradivari has been proved conclusively, 
and, indeed, one can examine any of the well-known 
examples of Joseph's craftsmanship without discovering 
a single trace of Stradivari's influence. Had we, at 
this day, the opportunity to compare some dozen or 
more undoubted "Joseph" violoncellos with the 
well-known instruments by Stradivari, Bugeri, and 
Bergonzi, our knowledge of violoncello tone would 
be greater than it is. 


There is so much careless writing on the subject of , 
tone in relation to various makers, that errors multiply 
and are repeated so often, until at last they become 
almost accepted facts. Thus we have the so-called 
'' Stradivari tone/' It is a well-known fact that instru- 
ments of a certain outline and model, providing the 
wood, varnish and thicknesses are in agreement, give 
out a more or less well-defined tone. So true is this, 
that experts can often judge pretty accurately the 
character of tone which an instrument of a certain 
build will possess. Thus we have the resonant breadth 
of instruments of the Maggini type ; the bright, flute- 
like woody quality of the Amati or Rugeri ; the full 
rich trumpet tone of Carlo Bergonzi ; and of Stradivari 
in his best period. What can one say ? Who amongst 
us that has heard Piatti, Haussmann, Becker, Jean 
Grerardy, Foldesy, Leo Stem, and several others of 
lesser merits, would care to say they all produced the 
" Stradivari tone,'* notwithstanding they all play or 
played instruments by Stradivari ? 

To particularize in only three of the best known 
cases. Piatti, with his bright, flexible, Italian singing- 
tone ; the resonant, if somewhat hard and trombone- 
like tone of Haussmann ; and the rich, mellow, and 
sonorous tone of Becker ; yet the instruments used 
by these three great artists were made in the years 
1719, 1720, and 1724 ; a period when Stradivari was 
settled in his violoncello proportions, and when, if 
ever, the tone of his instruments should be of one 
standard ; if that were possible, or intended. 

That the above-mentioned artists of three widely 
different *' schools " should have been able to produce 


such totally different tone-qualities from their respective 
instruments is a very great tribute to Stradivari ; 
one of the greatest, I think, that could be offered to 
that remarkable genius, and proves that his instruments 
were built on sound lines, and that they have a reserve 
of power sufficient to allow an artist, no matter what 
are his technical methods, to do full justice to his 

The best of the Stradivarius violoncellos are capable 
of producing a fine, vigorous and luscious tone, and 
are eminently suitable of bemg played under modem 
conditions, i.e., in a large haU, and with the accompani- 
ment of a modem orchestra. The tone produced by 
artists of first rank who have played the instruments 
of Stradivari is noted for its absolute beauty, being 
sympathetic and of a full, reedy, or of that " woody " 
quality so much desired in a fine solo instrument. 
In some cases — ^notably that of the late Signer Piatti — 
the tone was evidently produced with the greatest 
ease, passages in the highest positions being rendered 
with beautiful flute-like clearness. The writer has 
often heard it remarked that the upper notes of Piatti's 
violoncello were so like the tone of Joachim's " Strad " 
that it has been impossible, by the ear alone, to dis- 
tmguiBh wHch artist was playing a particular passage. 

A list of eminent artists who have played Stradivari 
violoncellos includes the following well-known names : 
Duport, Pranchomme, Batta, DavidofiF, Servais, De 
Swert, Griitzmacher, Haussmann, Leo Stem, Piatti, 
Becker, Jean Qerardy, Foldesy, Barjansky, De Munck, 
and Paul Ludwig. 



I AM often asked which is the finest violoncello in 
this country. My answer generally is the same, ^'I 
give it up." We have, however, one of the finest speci- 
mens of the work of Antonio Stradivari^ and I believe 
Messrs. Hill class this instrument as one of the most 
handsome, if not the handsomest of the Stradivari 
basses. I refer to that glorious instrument known as 
^^The Cristiani." It derives its name from Mdlle. 
Cristiani, who was, I believe, the fii;st " lady violon- 
cellist'^ and to whom Mendelssohn dedicated his 
'* Romance sans Paroles." For about ten years it 
was owned by Hugo Becker, then through the late 
Mr. Charles Oldham to its present owner^ Mr. C. B. 

Messrs. Hill class tlm violoncello for beauty of wood 
with the " Servais " bass. I am indebted to th^ owner 
for some of the following particulars. 

This violoncello is dated 1700, but at one time a 
small piece of paper with the figure 8 was pasted over 
the final figure. It is a matter of conjecture, therefore, 
whether this instrument is one of the missing violoncello?, 
notably the "Violoncello da Venezia." It will be 


The "Cristiani" violoncello is un- 
•doubtedly one of the finest and most per- 
fect specimens of Stradivari's art. Even 
in the photograph the splendid beauty 
of its curves, the handsome wood, the 
artistic oneness of the whole design can 
be seen and appreciated. The splendour 
of its rich plum-red varnish can only 
be imagined. Note the beautiful effect 
given by the legitimate wear on the back. 

To face page 16.1 

Phalograph b^ F. I 


The ptopettv of C. B. Lutreui. Esq. 


noted that " The Onstiani " more nearly resembles 
the later violoncellos in size, being only f of an inch 
longer than the " Piatti " violoncello, made in 1720, 
and exactly f shorter than the '^ Servais " bass dated 
1701. The dimensions are : Length, 30| inches ; 
width, 18i inches ; ribs, 4f and 4f inches. In appear- 
ance it is much more handsome than the ** Piatti," 
which has a somewhat plain back. In the " Cristiani " 
we have ample dimensions, splendid workmanship, 
lovely wood which is marked by a broad curl ; and the 
varnish, a superb coat of rich, deep plum-red. 

I have had many enquiries for my opinion respecting 
the violoncellos by Carlo Bergonzi. Let me add at 
once that it is a great disappointment to me that I 
cannot give any further particulars of that most elusive 
maker than can already be read in the usual text-books ; 
at the same time, much of the information in these 
same books is incorrect. Carlo Bergonzi shares with 
Joseph del Jesu the honour of being the most " various " 
of workmen. On occasions he can rise to the greatest 
heights, and again, one comes across roughly finished 
work, thick clotted varnish, or varnish sparingly appUed. 
Many are of opinion thlt he influenced Str^vari 
in the matter, of reducing the dimensions of his violon- 
cellos, and the fact that at the end of his career Stradivari 
made instruments of slightly smaller build lends colour 
to this view. Still, it is all a matter of conjecture, 
and of no real moment. That Carlo Bergonzi ever 
made the violoncellos signed and dated by Stradivari 
during the closing years of that maker's life can be 
passed over as more than improbable. That both 
he, and the sons of Stradivari, may have roughed out 



parts of the many instroxnentB — especially the yiol<m- 
cellos — ^turned out by the aged Antonio, is not only 
feasible, but quite probable. Anyone who has attempted 
it knows it is quite a physical feat to cut and prepare 
the wood for the construction of a violoncello, a feat 
not beyond the powers of an old man of good physique 
as Stradivari certainly was, but still, it was work which 
could well be left to assistants. 

I have, during the past ten years, traced over a 
dozen violoncellos attributed to Carlo Bergonzi. Most 
of these conform to the dimensions previously given 
of the " Carl Fuchs.'* In wood, workmanship, outline, 
model, and varnish they vary, sometimes very con- 
siderably. The Carl Fuchs violoncello does not seem 
to show the projecting comers which one associates 
with Bergonzi violins, not is there that flattened waist- 
curve. In a word, the outline is more syminetrical 
than one would associate with Bergonzi. It has the 
original label. The back and ribs of nicely figured ^ 
maple, the table of even grained pine of medium reed. 
The varnish a lovely cherry red over a golden amber. 
This describes some half-dozen violoncellos known to 
me, and which are attributed to Carlo Bergonzi. One 
or two I have seen have the early orange-coloured 
varnish, the brush marks, especially on the ribs, being 
quite distinctly seen ; the comers long drawn out like 
the Bergonzi violins, the flattened waist-curve, the 
massive, masterly cut scroll, showing clever tool-work 
yet hasty finish, and the tone everything that coidd 
be desired. It is to these massively built violoncellos 
perhaps covered with only one or two coats of rich 
orange varnish that we must look to discover instru* 


ments attributable to Carlo Bergonzi^ and not to the 
thickly varnished, dark red instruments of Brescian 
or Venetian type. 

Although Hart mentions that the Count Cozio da 
Salabue had a Carlo Bergonzi violoncello dated 1746, 
it was not until comparatively recent times that these 
instruments were sought after. The majority have 
had their labels removed, and these labels no doubt 
have been put in specimens by other makers which 
looked '' more like." Thus many of the characteristic 
dark red violoncellos, labelled Bergomd, are attributed 
by 'Hhose who know" to Domenico Montagnana €i 
Venice, Ketro Ruggeri of Brescia, and that fine maker 
of violonc^os, Matteo GofEriller, whose star is in the 

Some of the finest violoncellos were mietde by 
the Ruggeri family. Signer Piatti for many years 
played one by Pietro Giacomo Rogeri, afterwards sold 
to and used by Miss Muriel Handley. There were 
at least half a dozen makers of that name. The spelling 
varies, Ruggeri is, perhaps, the most commonly used. 

That well-known artist. Professor Whitehouse, is 
the fortunate owner of an exceedingly fine specimen 
by the best known maker of the family— Francesco 
Ruggeri detto il Per Cremona. The instrument is in a 
wonderful state of preservation ; the wood of the 
table is magnificent ; fairly wide grained pine, with 
the distinctive " wave " in the grain which one so 
often notices in instruments by Nicholas Amati. The 
back is *' winged," that is to say, the piece of wood not 
being sufficiently wide to allow the necessary dimensiona 
in the lower part of the instrument, Ruggeri, as was 



common with many Italian makers, joined on two 
slips of wood. The late W. E. Hill said he considered 
the back of this instrument to be the most beautiful 
he had ever seen on any violoncello, the wood, varnish 
and workmanship being superb. The ribs are very 
handsome, and the scroll is a masterpiece of symmetry 
and nobility of design. It has the flatness of volute 
so characteristic of Francesco Ruggeri. The " II Per " 
80 often met with on the labels <^ this maker is somewhat 
of a mystery. Many explanations have been offered 
as to its meaning : ^' The Pearl of Makers," '' The 
Father," etc., etc., it is generally thought nowadays 
to have been merely a nickname to which Ruggeri 
took a fancy, and which he added to his label to dis- 
tinguish his work from that of other makers of his 

The dimensions of this fine violoncello, which has 
been the solo instrument of Mr. Whitehouse for many 
years, are as follows : Length, 29 inches ; width, 
17f and 14^ inches; ribs, 4^ inches. Although the 
violoncello was made about the year 1689, it has been 
cherished with loving care, and is in a splendid state 
of preservation. 

Space does not allow me to give detailed particulars 
of many fine instruments of this golden period of violon- 
cello construction, especially those instruments which 
are not associated with players of any note. 

A short list of the Italian instruments which have 
been used by famous soloists will be of interest. 

Nicholas Amati. Piatti played on one for some 
years, also the famous Julius Elengel uses oue as his 
solo instrument. 


Andbeas Guarnebius. Mons. Joseph Hollmann. 

Petbus Guabnebius. Miss Beatrice Harrison. 

RuGGEBi. Mr. W. E. Whitehouse, Miss Elsa Ruegger^ 
Mr. Herbert Withers and Mr. Herbert Walenn. 

DoMENico MoNTAGNANA. Miss May MuUe, and 
Madam Suggia. 

Januabius Gagliano. Mr. Percy Such. A fine 
instroment this. A well reproduced photograph 
appeared in " The Strad," dated March, 1908. 

Giovanni Gbancino. The late Auguste Van Biene 
and Robert Lindley ; I believe, however, the instrument 
used by Lindley was later attributed to Testore. 

Many fine instruments were made by David Tecchler 
and Michael Platner, chiefly large size ; and I should say 
these, and the instruments by Grancino and Testore 
are the instruments for amateurs, most of them being 
well constructed and of good tone, although often 
plain in appearance. The Grancinos and Testores seem 
to have used wood from the same source, as I have 
come across several specimens by these makers, the 
pine of which seemed to have been cut from the identical 
same tree. These violoncellos often have backs of 
pear tree or poplar. 



AS no further development in the art of violoncello 
making has taken place since the ^'golden 
period " of Stradivari and his contemporaries, a short 
summary of ike leading features of the French, the 
German, and the English Schools must suffice. 

The French makers may have had more opportunities 
of seeing fine Italian work than had our early English 
makers. That some of them profited by this, is proved 
by the exceedingly high prices that good French instru- 
ments are now realizing. Whilst our English makers 
were debating the varying merits of the "Stainer'* 
and the " Cremona," the French were diligently copying 
Nicholas Amati or Antonio Stradivari. 

In many of the early French instruments, the varnish 
is not all that can be desired. So many of these makers 
used an outer coat of spirit famish of a nature that 
did not cohere with the under coat of oH. The result 
is that the varnish has "frizzled," in some instances 
to an alarming extent. 

The wood is generally well selected, in many instances 
the figure of the maple is not of that broad curl which 
one associates with the finest Italian — especially of 
the Venetian school, but has a fiine, fairly well-defined 


onrl. Tke pine is generally well chosen, and the varnish 
except for the comnion fault previously mentioned, is 
good. Where the model and dimensions are right, 
the Fr^u^h instruments are only second to the Italian, 
and indeed in many cases are superior to the sec(md- 
qlass Italian violoncellos. 

The instruments of Boquay, Claude Boivin, Georges 
Chanot, Gand, Pique, and J. B. Vuillaume are all 
increasing in value, and if the player can " pick up " 
a specimen of the work of any of the foregoing makers, 
especially if the mod^ and dimensions are of the " late " 
Strad pattern, he should make every effort to secure it. 

Vuillaume and Pique made many violoncellos which, 
to my mind, are too large. I think these are copies 
of the Servais bass. The instruments of the elder 
Chanot are exceedingly well made. These are evidently 
copies of a 30-inch Strad, and examples of this maker 
reach well into three figures at public auction. The 
dimensions are of the " late " Stradivarian, the wood 
is beautifully selected, and the workmanship is excep- 
tionally neat and highly finished. The varnish is 
generally a rich red over a golden undercoat. 

The Grerman school is cursed with the Stainer fetish, 
and although Jacob Stainer is said never to have made 
a violoncello, yet the worship of that fine maker has 
gone so far that a Stainer model violoncello^ had to 
be created, even if it did not exist. Thus Widhalm, 
the Eloz family, and since their day a host of nondes- 
cript makers, have fashioned high modelled instru- 
ments with long flowing soundholes ; generally with 
an ugly brute of a lion's head instead of the orthodox 


I am qiiite ready to admit that fine toned violonceUo8 
aie to be had, which are ^' high in the model," but if 
this feature is carried to excess the instruments are 
generally *' tubby/' and have not that resonant power 
of the flat modelled instrument. 

The number of Grerman and Bavarian instruments 
which possess this exaggerated, bulging, high model 
is quite considerable. On the Continent, the dealers 
and experts have a critical knowledge of these German 
and Bavarian instruments ; and it is doubtful if many 
of the best specimens find their way over here. Violon- 
cellos by the finest Grerman makers are very much 
esteemed, there are so many makers of the same name, 
however, and so much of the work seems to be anony- 
mous and faked that it is difficult to give any really 
valuable hints on this school. 

The English school of violoncello making may be 
said to commence with Barak Norman, also a maker 
of viols. The violoncellos are well made, generally 
inlaid, the model after the style of Maggini. After 
Barak Norman we had quite a number of makers who, 
had they made all their instruments equal to their 
best specimens, would have made the name of the 
English school renowned throughout the whole world. 
More especially would this have been the case had 
they faithfully copied the instruments of Stradivari, 
and not allowed themselves to be *' side-tracked " 
by inventing so-called original models, or by wor- 
shipping Nicholas Amati — ^at a great distance — or the 
everlasting Stainer. 

Thus the best specimens of the work of Forster, 
Banks, Hill, and Lott fetch quite big money; while 


This beautiful example of one of the 
earliest of the English makers — Barak 
Norman— serves to illustrate the skill and 
artistry of the English school and of this 
maker in particular. To judge it on its own 
merits it stands high in the luthier's art. 
Our early English makers were accom- 
plished craftsmen— to compare their work 
with the work of the early Italian school 
is like comparing the work of Hogarth 
with that of Raphael. Note the beautiful 
inlaid monogram B N on the back, under 
the fingerboard is also some fine inlay 
which cannot be seen in the photograph. 

To face page 24.1 

graph by W. H. Horm. Lak ] 

The property oi Dr. J. Mountford Johason. 


specimens by Kennedy, Wamsley, Fendt, and George 
Craske are often of quite superior worth. Where the 
instruments are of good wood, and of full size — and, 
as is often the case in these best specimens, the varnish 
happens to be superior — ^then you have a really j6ne 
instrument. The player should not, however, be led 
away merely by the name. Named or nameless, his 
eye and ear should be the judge. If he cannot carry 
the standard dimensions in his eye, he should not be 
afraid to take a tape-measure when purchasing, and 
see that he obtains at least an instrument of proper 

The size of violoncello I recommend for a player of 
av^age height and build is 29| to 30 inches. If the 
player is of unusual stature, or has any peculiarity 
of the left hand, he must, of course, select an instrument 
of such proportions as are suited to his particular 
requirements. For instance, a player with a small, 
narrow left hand would never be able to play a large 
size Strad model, or a Vuillaume of, say, 31 inches. 
Personally, I must say I prefer the tone of the medium 
size violoncello to that of the larger size. The instru* 
ments of 31 inches and over I have heard and attempted 
to play, seem to partake of the deep cavernous tone 
of the double-bass. 

The instruments of 29 to 30 inches are brighter and 
more flexible, whilst those of 27 to 28^ are generally 
too small for really serious work, especially if they 
happen to be " narrow," and also " shallow " in the 
ribs. That is to say, if the width across the instrument 
and the depth of the ribs do not come up to full dimen- 
sions, it is impossible to have the tone. 



MANY modem makers, both professional and 
amateur, have the idea that if they could only 
arrive at the correct dimensions, thicknesses, and 
weights which Stradivari was accustomed to employ 
in the making of his violoncellos, the tone of their 
instruments would be equal to that of the Stradivari 
violoncellos. That this is a fallacy has been proved 
times innumerable in the art of violin making, and 
I think we might take it for granted that the same will 
apply in the case of violoncello making. 

In the endeavour to restore the lost art of vidlin 
and violoncello making, the changes have been rung 
on every phase of what may be termed the science 
(in contra-4istinction to the art) of violin making. 
The making of violins and violoncellos is fundamentally 
a craft ; it was raised to an art by the Enest of the 
Italian luthiers. It degenerated into a manufacture 
with the Markneukirchen and Mirecoulrt makers, 
from which slough of commercialism our finest British 
makers have endeavoured to raise it to a science. 

Let us see what scientific investigation and experi- 
ment has done for the art of violiu-makinir. I say 
™lin.„»ldng »i™edly, « I « ih.. ^ »pj 
menters have taken the smaller instrument in preference 


to the viola or violoncello. Science has told us that 
the wood must be of certain kinds. The tree selected 
most be of a certain size, and it must be grown on the 
south side of the forest ; the only part of the - tree to 
be used must be that on the south side, and not too 
near the root, or too near the branclies. The wood 
must be cut in the months of December and January. 
All this, of course, is only to inust that the wood must 
be properly matured during growth by a full exposure 
to the sun, that it must be free from sap when cut, 
and that the grain shall be nice uid even without 
knots. Science has even gone beyond this, and teUs 
us that the plate of wood must be of a certain density, 
and other matters which will be referred to in due course. 

The numerous experiments tried in order to arrive 
at maturity by artificial means are not worthy of 
consideration at this day, but in times gone by great 
store was set cm the wood being '' prepared." Enthusi- 
asts baked the wood, steamed it, pickled it, treated 
it with acids, caustics, spirits, and what not too numerous 
to mention. Even a great maker like VuiUaume 
** t^reated " the wood of quite a number of his instru- 
ments, thereby hoping to acquire by artificial means 
what could only come by age and use. 

The next fetish was the tone of the air-mass and 
the tone of the plates. To this day there are quite a 
number of makers constructing very fine instruments, 
the success they achieve they themselves attribute 
to the '^toning" of the plates. It can be proved, 
however, that equal results have been arrived at by 
makers who have had not the slightest knowledge 
of this subject, and, more curious still, by makers who, 


from a wrong conception of the experiments carried 
out by the pioneers of this system, have made a hash 
of the whole thing by reversing the system of " toning." 

I can imagine my professional reader saying, " Well, 
what about the varnish ? " To my mind the varnish 
is one of the most important matters. Varnish will 
never make a fiddle, but it has spoiled thousands. 

The varnish of Cremona is a lost secret. It has 
been discovered hundreds of times, not only the actual 
formula, but something superior, I suppose ! At any 
rate, chemists and drysalters, to leave out of account 
the ordinary man in the street, have spent various 
sums, up to thousands of pounds, in experimenting 
on varnish making. How even a hundred pounds 
could be spent is always a mystery to me, seeing that 
all the ordinary varnishes made with amber, copal, 
gum-lac, gum-mastic, sandarac, elemi, Venice turpen- 
tine, and a host of gums and resins, hard and soft, 
are well known, not only to the trade, but the formulae 
of any or all of these can be found in many books and 

The amber and linseed oil theory has brought ruin 
to thousands of instruments. Personally, I am of 
opinion that the Cremona varnish was a very simple 
affair. The gum or resin used was of very little account. 
It may have been copal, what was of account, however, 
was the vehicle, and we must look to the lighter oils, 
and not to linseed oil. It is necessary to use an oil 
which does not oxidize so much as linseed oil. I would 
direct attention to poppy oil, and oil of spike lavender. 
Now the next matter of importance is the manner of 


The gum should be melted separately in oil of spike 
lavender or turpentine. The oil should be allowed 
to stand exposed to the sun and air until it is of the 
consistency of honey, then it should be thinned with 
oil of spike lavender. Last "we have the colour. What- 
ever colour is used should be separately mixed with 
oil ; it should then stand until the particles which do 
not dissolve settle to the bottom of the bottle or flask. 
The clear coloured oil should then be decanted, and 
allowed to stand until thick. Now all this seems very 
vague and haphazard, and it is this very absence of 
ha^ and fast rules which gives us the varying artistic 
appearance of the Italian varnish. Stradivari, with 
his usual care and methodical manner, could be relied 
on to mix the ingredients together in proper quantities, 
and of proper consistency. Joseph Guamerius and 
Carlo Bergonzi, both clever and at the same time 
careless workmen, very frequently allowed the coloured 
oil to be so thick that it would not mix properly when 
applied : that accounts for the clots. It is interesting 
to note that the clots appear more often in the dark 
varnish, showing that the coloured oil had been allowed 
to stand too long before being incorporated with the 

If the varnish of an Italian instrument of the Stradi- 
vari period is examined under a microscope, it will be 
found that it is composed of two distinct substances, 
a clear oil, and a lot of minute resinous particles. The 
same appearance is noticed in varnish prepared as I 
advise, and if the vamisher is sufficiently careless he 
can produce " clots " in abundance. 

The beautiful warm, dry climate which is general 


in Italy is conducive to a quicker drying of this oil 
tlian would be possible here. Even then it was necessary 
to allow the oils and varnish to partly oxidize by in- 
spissation (that is^ by allowing the more volatile portions 
of the oil to evaporate) so that drying was encouraged. 

How many attempts to reproduce the old Cremona 
varnish look quite all right when the varnish is first 
applied, but after the lapse of a few years the resin and 
oils oxidize to such an extent that the whole effect 
looks dry and resinous, and utterly lifeless. 

I have proved that a varnish composed as I advise 
is suitable for violin and violoncello varnishing. It 
is clear, full of life, does not oxidize in nearly twenty 
years to any appreciable extent; and tiie effect on 
the tone is to keep it bright and flexible. That this 
varnish remains pure after many years' exposure to 
light and air can be proved by taking a look at many 
of the pictures which were painted during the Victorian 
era. Many of the finest artists used a mixture of copal 
varnish and poppy oil, thinned down after inspissation 
with oil of spike. The pictures painted with this medium 
lure as bright and pure in colour to*day as when executed 
fifty or more years ago. 



IF it happens — as in all the arts — ^that varioas matters 
in the constmction of the violoncello are not bound 
by fixed roles, but are left to the individuality of the 
artist, there are certain matters which will allow of 
no such individual expression, but must of necessity 
foUow more or less a fixed plan. 

Of these, what are termed the "fittings" of the 
violoncello are more or less standardized by use and 
custom to such an extent that to hear the expression, 
" The instrument is beautifully fitted up " is to declare 
in other words that the recognized standard of the 
fitting and adjustment of the instrument has reached 
well-nigh perfection. 

In a well-constructed violoncello of standard size, 
the neck, fingerboard, bridge, tailpiece, pegs, and 
sliding pin must be given the form and dimensions 
which custom — derived from the practice of the best 
luthiers, in conjunction with the requirements of the 
finest artists — ^has declared to be the acme of perfection. 

Of the various patents, and so-called improvements 
which from time to time have been made in the shape 
of the bridge, the tailpiece, and various other fittings 
and accessories of the violoncello, there are none which 
are essential to the emission of the best tone which a 
** fine " instrument is capable of giving. 


Without specifying any of the well-known patents, 
many of which have helped a host of " lame dogs " 
over the particular " stiles " of their afflictions, it is 
sufficient to again affirm that if a violoncello is properly 
constructed, it only requires the fittings to be of the 
standard pattern, and the adjustment to be delicately 
carried out. It will be noted that the fittings on some 
of the finest violoncellos, played by the greatest artists, 
are of the plainest description — ^beautifully and deli- 
cately made — ^but all freak accessories are strictly 

The neck, or graft as it is called in the trade, should 
be of nicely figured maple or sycamore. If possible, 
it ought to match in figure the back and ribs of the 
instrument. It is absurd to fit a neck of broad figured 
maple to the instrument which has a back and ribs 
of finely marked, close-grained wood. At the same 
time, if the back of a violoncello is very plain, a neck 
of nicely marked wood, instead of accentuating the 
plain character of the back, seems to relieve it — ^but 
it must not be overdone. 

The fingerboard should be of the most approved 
pattern ; that is, with the portion under the C string 
nicely scooped away. If the player insists on having 
the strings fitted very close to the fingerboard, it is 
an advantage to have what is termed a " hollow board.'' 
This also must not be overdone, or the advantage 
gained in the highest positions will be lost in the 
middle register. Only the slightest hollowing, exactly 
midway between bridge and nut should be given ; 
it should not be evident to the eye until a rule, or 
straight-edge is laid close to the face of the board ; 


This instrument by Francesco Rugierius 
is the solo instrument of W. E. White- 
house, Professor R. A- M. and Violoncellist 
of the London Trio. The beautiful 
appearance and fine tone of this instru- 
ment is well-known to London concert- 
goers. Note the " winged " back. This 
device was often used by early Italian 
makers when they wished to use a 
piece of wood of exceptional tonal pro- 
perties but which was not large enough 
for the purpose in hand. The instru- 
ment is covered with a rich warm-red 
varnish, most clear and translucent. 
(See page 19). 

To face page 32.1 

Pholograpli by F. W. WooJ, London, (C.) 


The property of W. E. Whitshouae, Em. 


then it should be noted that there is a veiy gradual 
hollowing-out of the fingerboard, at its deepest place 
only very slight, and insensibly fading away to nothing 
as it approaches each end. 

The under part of the board should be scooped out ; 
if this is not done, the weight of this thick piece of 
ebony, as bought in the rough state, is far too great, 
and would impede the vibrations. 

The thickness of the board should be nicely adjusted, 
and in conjunction with the neck should form a pleasant 
and convenient grip for the left hand. That is to say, 
if the neck with the addition of the fingerboard is too 
thin, the player will not be able to attain that nicety 
of attitude of the left hand. He will also be more liable 
to cramp in the fingers, if the neck is very much on the 
thin side. If on the other hand the neck is too thick, 
the same will apply in the opposite direction. A thick, 
clumsy neck is an abomination. 

To many players the pegs are a source of annoyance. 
This should not be the case if rosewood or ebony pegs 
are used, and they are beautifully adjusted^ Personally, 
I prefer those of rosewood. I find that ebony pegs are 
more inclined to split if the peg gets stuck in the peg- 
box and extra force is used to turn it. In a well- 
regulated instrument, however, this catastrophe should 
never happen. 

In order to have pegs which will work smoothly, 
it is essential in the first place to see that the peg-holes 
are properly bored in the peg-box. That they are 
in such a position that the D and G strings do not rub 
against the C and A pegs. Sufficient clearance must 
be allowed. It is also necessary that the holes are 



bored with the necessai^ taper, and perfectly true ; 
if these matters are correct, it should be an easy matter 
to fit the pegs so that tuning is not only easy, but an 
absolute pleasure. 

Many old instruments have the peg-holes worn to 
such an extent that the pegs can be pushed through 
almost to their heads. Where this is the case, the 
remedy usually employed is to " bush " the holes — 
that is, to fill up the old peg-holes and re-bore them. 

In cases where it is not advisable to re-bore the 
holes, or as a temporary expedient, there are several 
forms of self-gripping pegs which may be fitted with 
advantage. That abomination, the ''machine-head," 
as used on the double-bass, should in no case be fitted 
to the violoncello. I have seen many scrolls damaged 
beyond repair by this contraption. The class of self- 
gripping peg to which I refer does not disfigure the 
cheeks of the peg-box in any way, but merely grips 
the sides with any pressure which may be desired. 

We will presume, however, i^t the scroll and peg-box 
of the instrument is in perfect condition. That a nice 
set of rosewood pegs has been selected, and beautifully 
fitted; the only matter remaining now, is to bore 
the small holes through the pegs themselves, through 
which to pass the strings. These holes should be bored 
at a sufficient distance from the side of the box to allow 
of two or three turns of the string. By arranging the 
string on the peg in this manner it can be caused to 
push in the peg the tighter the string is drawn. In 
putting on a new string the player should always 
adjust the string in this manner; that is sufficient 
string — and only just sufficient — should be allowed. 


80 that when the string is tuned to pitch, the last lap 
slightly wedges itself against the side of the box. If 
too much string is wound round the peg, the danger 
will be that the peg may be forced in too tightly. 

The next matter of importance is the bridge. The 
pattern of the bridge most in favour is that known as 
the *' Aubert." Here^ ftgftiiL> if the violoncello is properly 
constructed, the regulation pattern bridge will suffice. 
The width of the bridge is determined, however, by 
the distance between the upper portions of the sound- 
holes. It would seem that this elementary matter 
would be apparent to the merest tyro. Such is not the 
case however, and I have come across many instances 
where a wide bridge has been fitted to a narrow- waisted 
violoncello, the feet of the bridge coming in line with 
the upper circles of the soundholes. 

If the width of the bridge is governed by the width 
of the instrument at the waist, and the distance between 
the soundholes, its height should not be governed by 
the set of the neck. 

Each violoncello requires a bridge of a certain height 
in order that it shall give out the best tone of which it 
is capable. The set of the neck should be arranged 
to the height of the bridge ; in most cases the opposite 
method has been chosen. 

As a rule, a narrow, high bridge gives a brilliant 
tone, but this also is influenced by the model of the 

A matter of the greatest importance is that the bridge 
be beautifully fitted, both in relation to the upper 
table of the instrument, and also with reference to the 
distance of the strings from the fingerboard. 




WB now arrive at a more detailed description 
of the " fittings " of the violoncello. 

The measurements given are taken from an old 
Italian violoncello attributed to Carlo Bergonzi. The 
instrument is beautifully fitted up for solo playing, 
and is of full size, i.e., 29| inches length of body. The 
dimensions of the various fittings given herewith will 
therefore apply to any violoncello of similar size and 
build ; it must be understood, however, that each 
instrument requires some little variation of position 
and dimensions of bridge, bass-bar, and soundpost 
to suit its individual constitution. 

Only a thoroughly capable workman, and one who 
has had the advantage of seeing cmd testing a number 
of fine instruments, should be entrusted with the delicate 
operation of adjusting a valuable old violoncello. 


is 23} inches in length, 1^ inches wide at the nut, and 
2^ inches at its widest part. The under part is scooped 
out to a distance of 9 inches, and this, with the beautiful 
bevel which is given every portion — except the end 
which fits flush against the nut, and the part which 


is glued to the graft-gives an apparent thickness 
of a quarter of an inch throughout. 

The matter of the thickness is of the greatest im- 
portance, and affects the tone very considerably. 
Many experts even go so far as to assert that the quality 
of wood employed in the graft — ^that ip, the neck — 
and in the fingerboard, influences the vibrations to a 
very considerable extent. 

Li the olden days the tendency was to fit a short, 
heavy fingerboard; the reverse is the case in these 
days, especially as far as length is concerned, and one 
often comes across a violoncello on which the board 
is so long that very little space is left between the end 
of the board and the bridge. 

With a 27f vibrating string — ^that is the length of 
string between nut and bridge — ^a 23} fingerboard 
allows 4 inches clear between the end of the board 
and the bridge. The height above the table at the 
extreme end of the board is 2^ inches, including the 
thickness of the board at the centre. 

The board should be of fine grained ebony. Rosewood, 
or plain hard wood stained or veneered, is never coun- 
tenanced in these days, nor is any ornamentation 

The Tailpiece, 
a fitting of the greatest importance, is 9 inches long; 
it is fastened by a loop of gut. Formerly a piece of 
double-bass first string was used, and in some cases, a 
loop of brass or copper wire ; it is possible now to get 
a specially prepared gut nicely dyed red, black, or 
mauve ; the latter looks very artistic ; of more im- 
portance, however, is the metiliod of fastening the tail- 


gut, and the l^igth of the same. To take the latter 
item first. If the tail-gut is too long, the tailpiece 
will be pulled up too near the bridge, more or less 
muting the tone. 

As a proof of this, it is only necessary to fix a small 
wedge or weight behind the bridge, to see the muting 

The clearance behind the bridge should be quite 
6 inches ; in the 'cello under notice, a clearance of 5^ 
inches is allowed. 

The cheaper kind of tailpiece has two holes bored 
right through; the tail-gut is passed through these 
holes, the two ends being twisted under the end-pin. 
This is a very insecure and unsightly method of fixing. 
The correct form of tailpiece has a ^* hollow " scooped 
out, about an inch from its narrow end. The two 
holes to receive the gut are bored longitudinally in 
the end of the tailpiece, and emerge at this hollow, 
l^e tail-gut is cut a proper length, the loop passing 
under the end-pin and the two ends being passed through 
the holes. These ends are now singed until a small 
protuberance forms, a piece of waxed linen thread, or 
a thin piece of violin E string is tightly lapped round 
and tied — ^this to prevent the ^'cinder" being pulled 
through the hole in the tailpiece, and the fixing is 

Care must be taken that the ends of the gut are not 
scorched to such an extent that an absolute " cinder '' 
forms, or it will be bound to break off. The scorching 
must only cause the gut to expand, and partly untwist ; 
this is prevented from going any further by the linen 
thread, or thin gut. 

its history, selection and adjustment. 39 

The End-Pin. 

Great improvements have been made in this mechani- 
cal fitting of the violoncello, and although it has not 
such an efiect on the tone of the instrument as have 
some of the other accessories, it does materially affect 
the comfort of the player to such an extent that unless 
an instrument is fitted with an end-pin of suitable 
design, and of sufficient length of stiding-pin, the 
player cannot get the best out of his instrument. 

The finest quality pin, and the pattern most widely 
adopted by players of first rank, is the ''ratchet." 
Inside the hollow plug, which fits in the lower block 
of the 'cello, is a spring clip. This clip has a smaU 
bead-like projection which fits into the numerous 
notches in the steel pin. A thumb-screw allows the 
sliding-pin to be adjusted at any requisite length. 
It should be possible to have a pin fitted which gives 
an extension of quite 12 inches. 

And now to one or two debatable points. Several 
of the old players — ^I might instance Signer Piatti 
and Herr Haussmann— did not favour the use of an 
end-pin at all, but preferred to keep up the old-fashioned 
method of holding the 'cello merely by gripping it 
with the knees. I can quite understand that in the 
ease of Piatti he would have a difficulty in becoming 
accustomed to a sliding-pin ; I have been told that 
when trying a strange instrument which was fitted 
with a diding-pin, he quietly pushed in the pin, and 
held the violoncello in his accustomed manner. 

Some players — ^I believe Herr Beckw is one— affirm 
that a wooden end-pin is preferable, that it carries 
the vibrations to the floor. That artist also uses a 


sounding-box to further assist in augmenting the tone. 
Peisonally I do not think there is anything in it. 
So long as the ribs of the violoncello ar^^ift free, it is 
of little consequence whether the end-pin is of wood or 
metal, or, as in the case of Haussmann — who certainly 
had the biggest tone of any artist I have ever heard — 
it is dispensed with entirely. 

I do not wish it to be understood that I favour the 
system of holding the violoncello without the aid of 
a sliding-pin ; but rather on the contrary, I advocate 
the use of the very latest and best that can be obtained, 
in order that the player can adopt an attitude which 
is at once comfortable and artistic. 

It may be superfluous to add that the end-pin must 
be nicely fitted ; the hole in the block must be bored 
so that the pin, when extended, is in perfect line with 
the axis of the instrument. In other words, the pin 
must not have a tendency to slope either forwards or 
backwards ; only by being in perfect line with the 
instrument can ease of attitude be attained. 

Thb Pegs. 

In the instrument under notice I find the peg-holes 
are bored in the following manner. The two upper 
peg-holes are from centre to centre exactly one inch 
apart. The two lower are also bored at the same dis- 
tance apart. The space between the two pairs of p^ 
is exactly 1^ inches, measuring from centre to centre. 
This gives the following — from centre to centre D to G 
one inch ; G to A one and a quarter inches ; A to C 
one inch. 

The shafts of the pegs should be tut o5 ; their tips 


piojecting almost level with the face of the peg-box, 
then nicely bevelled. On passing the finger over the 
face of the jieg-box, only the slightest indication of 
the end of the peg is discernible. 

The shaft nearest the thumb-piece projects exactly 
one inch ; all the pegs are fitted evenly, and including 
the thumb-piece, project exactly 2^ inches. This 
may seem a trivial matter, it is of importance however, 
as when fitted with this amount of projection, a good 
and comfortable grip is obtainable. 

As before mentioned, the pegs should be of plain 
rosewood, not carved or ornamented in any way. 
Sometimes a small inlay of gold is inserted in the end 
of the thumb-piece, but it is of no consequence, except 
that it has a habit of coming out, when the vacant 
place loob! unsightly. 

The Nut. 

A piece of ebony fitted at the upper end of the finger- 
board, over which the strings pass. It is essential that 
it shaQ be nicely and smoothly made, and be given a 
perfect fit. 

Its length is the width of the scroll, and it is nicely 
beveUed in all ways, except that part which fits flush 
against the end of the board. The niches or grooves 
over which pass the strings are cut so that the finger- 
board projects one-eighth of an inch at each side. 
This is important, if sufficient projection is not given, 
the fingers are apt to slip off the strings ; this applies 
especially to the A string. 

The grooves are spaced as follows. The distance 
between the C and G strings, from centre to centre, is 
five-sixteenths of an inch; between the G and D, 


one quarter of an inch, and the same between the D 
and A strings. I find these distances the most suitable 
for all kinds of technique, both single and double- 

The strings are only half embedded in the grooves, 
which are graduated according to the thickness of 
each stpng, and each groove is smoothly finished 
so that the string passes easily and without friction. 
The distance of the string from the board is scarcely 
a measurement, but I find that a thick postcard passes 
easily under the string quite up td the nut. 

Ths Saddlb, or Rest. 

This IB a piece of ebony inserted to take the pressure 
of the tail-gut, and to raise the tailpiece clear of the 
table. It should be inserted in the table as far as the 
line of purfling, and is 2^ inches by f thick. The tail- 
gut diould be quite flexible over this saddle — that is 
to say that wh^ the strings are loosened, the ^id of 
the tailpiece should not be in contact with the saddle. 
The disadvantage of allowing the tailpiece to project 
too far over the saddle, and thus weighting the bridge 
has been previously mentioned. 



THE three most important f eatuiea oi the 
violoncello aie the bridge, the bass-bar, and 
the soundpost. 

Writers on the subject love to ascribe to these three 
features various physiological and psychological attri- 
butes ; if such terms can be applied to an instrument. 

Thus, collectively, they have been termed the 
" nervous system " of the instrument, whilst the sound- 
post is poetically named by the French, "the soul." 

Scientific investigators have spent much time in 
trying to fix the laws which govern the action of the 
bridge, and their relation to bass-bar, soundpost, and 
the upper-table ; in many cases, however, their premises 
were arrived at after the study of only one portion of 
the subject. In these cases the conclusions arrived 
at are not sound, and much that was considered truth 
a decade ago is now proved to be fallacy. 

In order to establish a correct theory of the functions 
of the bridge, it is essential that the subject should be 
studied in conjunction with soundpost and bass-bar; 
and the exact relation of the whole to the pktes of the 

I would like to point out that in order to judge 
whether an instrument is properly fitted with these 


thiee important accessories — ^if they may be so tenned 
— ^it is essential that the following facts aie kept in 

Active and Passive Vibrations. 

The vibrations of a stringed instrument are of two 
kinds : active and passive. 

To state the matter broadly, the vibrations of the 
bridge and the sound-box — ^including the bass-bar and 
the soundpost, are chiefly active. The vibrations of 
the neck, fingerboard, tailpiece, sliding-pin, scroll, 
and pegs are chiefly passive. 

In cases where parts which should vibrate passively 
only, become aggressive and vibrate actively, we have 
peculiar sounds, thus a loose fingerboard, or even a 
cracked peg, will give out most unpleasant noises. 

In some instances, instead of active vibrations in 
some of the parts, we only get passive vibrations, or 
perhaps no vibration at all. In these cases we get 
false tones, wolf notes, etc. 

Bearing all this in mind, we now arrive at 

The Bridge. 

It may be said with some truth that each violoncello 
requires its own style of bridge ; and the following 
matters should be taken into consideration. 

The weight of the bridge ; this is governed by the 
size and thickness, and the density of the wood. 

The pressure it exerts on the upper table ; governed 
chiefly by its height in relation to the set of the neck, 
and also by its distance from the tailpiece. 


The width of the feet of the bridge, and their distance 
apart, is also of the greatest importance. 

Would-be improvers of stringed instruments thought 
that by taking the pressure off the bridge, and thus 
relieving the weight on the upper table, the tone would 
be improved. In practice this does not happen. It 
has been proved that the bridge communicates its 
vibrations, only when a certain amount of pressure 
accompanies its vibrating action. 

Working along the same lines, others thought that 
by cutting away the feet of the bridge to the smallest 
possible dimensions, the table would be able to vibrate 
more freely. It is found, however, that a certain 
amount of contact is necessary, enough but not so 
much that the vibrations of the belly are impeded. 

Working on entirely opposite lines, some have thought 

that a bridge which gave the greatest surface contact 

with the belly was the desideratum, and thus we get 

.the bridge without feet ; i.e., a bridge which presses 

on the soundboard with the whole width of its surface. 

On the assumption that the vibrations from each 
string were carried separately down the feet of the 
bridge, we were given the three-footed, and the four- 
footed bridge. These improvements have been worked 
out on the assumption that the inner strings could more 
readily transmit their vibrations to the belly, if brought 
into more immediate contact with the feet of the bridge. 

It must be remembered, however, that too much 
surface contact tends to muffle the vibrations, and 
also that the bridge vibrates as a whole, and the sotmd 
is conducted simultaneously by both feet to the table. 

Much can be done to improve an instrument by 


selecting a bridge of open soft-grained wood — ^if the 
tone is haid and metallic. In this case the sonndpost 
should be moved a little farther away from the bridge. 

If the tone is too soft and loose, a narrow, high, 
close-grained bridge should be selected. This idea of 
effecting improvements in tone by means of the bridge 
must not be carried too far however. It is very easy 
for the ear to become accustomed to a faulty tone- 
quality, and thus be insensible to the disagreeable 
metallic sound which a thin, close-grained bridge will 
impart to some violoncellos. 

In carrying out these experiments, after selecting 
a bridge which is likely to suit the constitution of the 
instrument, allow it to remain on the violoncello at 
least a month. In the meantime, try a slightly different 
position of soundpost ; thus, if the tone of the A is 
aggressive and the remaining strings dull, move the 
post a little nearer the D string. If the instrument 
requires brightening up g^ierally, move the post 
slightly jnearer the bridge, and in conjunction with a 
slightly higher bridge, the tone should be very much 

Otiiier suggestions relating to the various methods 
of improving the tone by varying the position of bridge 
and soundpost will be given later. 

The position of the bridge is generally central, that 
is, exactly in the centre of the two soundholes, and 
equi-distant from both. The notches in the soundholes 
cannot always be taken as a guide, very often they are 
wrongly placed, high or low. 

The left foot of the bridge should be exactly over 
the bass-bar, and, as a rule, a line drawn from both 


feet longitudinally should pass on the inner sides of 
the upper circles of the soundholes. That is to say, 
that the vibrations communicated by the feet of the 
bridge should be able to travel the whole length of 
the belly, and should not be interrupted by the sound- 
holes intervening. 



A WELL-FITTED BRIDGE is not only absolutely 
essential for the proper production of tone, it is 
also necessary in order that the upper table is not 
damaged. How often does one find that the tables 
of old instruments are almost ruined by deep ruts 
caused by ill-fitting bridges. 

It may astound the general reader to learn that 
not many people have a really keen ear for the dis- 
crimination of tone-quality. It is this lack of knowledge 
which is a danger to any who try experiments with 
bridge and soundpost. 

Even if the amateur has a keen ear for tone- value — 
the ear soon becomes weary, and loses its power of 
judging the minute difEerence of tone with the bridge 
and soundpost in varying positions. 

One of the greatest tests to give those who are inflicted 
with the bridge and soundpost craze — for, in spite of 
its importance, it does become a craze with some 


amateurs — is to advise that the iBstrument be put 
away for a fortnight. In the meantime, another instru- 
ment should be constantly played upon. At the end 
of the fortnight, take out the old instrument, and note 
keenly the main characteristics of its tone. 

This is also an admirable plan to follow if a player 
becomes temporarily disgusted with his instrument. 
Play on another for a little time ; give the ear a com- 
plete change, then you will be in a better state to judge 
the tone quaUty on again taking up the instrument. 

In this chapter I give a sketch of the bridge. This 
is taken from a genuine Aubert bridge, and gives the 
main features of bridge-fitting. The outside lines 
are traced from the bridge in its rough state. The 
inner lines are from the bridge when cut to fit the 

A most important matter is to see that the wood 
which is cut away does not interfere with the sym- 
metrical design of the bridge. Thus it would have been 
possible to have fitted the bridge by only cutting wood 
away from the feet, leaving the wood in the upper 
part almost intact. A little consideration, however, 
will prove that had this been done, the bridge when 
fitted would have been top-heavy. The feet would 
have been short, bringing the arch of the bridge too 
near the upper-table. 

In some cases it might happen that it would be 
advisable to fit the bridge in this manner, in order to 
leave an extra amount of wood in the upper portion 
of the bridge, but I think it will be acknowledged 
that if the surplus wood is cut away in the proportion 
as given in sketch, the efEect it satisfactory. 




The sketch does not show ti^e beautiful manner 
in which the outside curves are bevelled. This seems 
to have been done with one clean cut of the knife, 
and gives the impression that the bridge was made 

Diagram z. 

of some soft substance through which the knife went 
easily and sweetly. This clean cutting reveals the 
handiwork of the skilled craftsman, and is a joy to 



The bevel is only given to the ontside curves, and to 
the arch. The inner waist curves and the heart are 
left untouched, the edges being quite sharp. 

The curve of the top of the bridge must be noticed. 
This follows the curve of the fingerboard, and as the 
board is of the Romberg pattern, i.e., cut away imder 
the lower strings, the symmetrical shape of the bridge 
is preserved. This is quite unlike the old-fashioned 
bridges which of necessity used to be fitted high on 
the bass side, and very much cut away — often far too 
much so — on the treble side. 

Another matter of great importance is the thickness 
of the bridge. This may be roughly given as half-an- 
inch at the feet, tapering to one-eighth of an inch at 
the top. It may be stated that the top of the bridge is 
nicely rounded or bevelled off, so that it really looks 
slightly thinner than one-eighth. 

Some makers taper the bridge £rom one side only, 
that is to say, the back of the bridge is fitted quite 
perpendicular, whilst the front — ^that part nearest 
the fingerboard — ^tapers or slopes towards the back. 
Others taper the bridge evenly on both sides, and fit 
the bridge so that it stands quite perpendicular. 

The former way seems good, i.e., the bridge itself 
tapers backwards, whilst the fitting is perpendicular. 
Some makers, on the other hand, give the bridge a 
pronounced backward slope, trjring in this maimer 
to overcome the tendency of the bridge to pull forward. 

The niches or grooves which are cut for the strings 
to pass over should first be marked out with a small 
(Corner file, then with fine glass-paper wrapped aroimd 
a suitable tool, nicely rounded and made perfectly 



smooth. Beware of catting them too deep at first. 
The correct depth is barely half the thickness of the 
string. It will be found however that the pressure of 
the string gradually cuts into the bridge ; this is more 
apparent if the bridge is worked a little on the thin side 
at the top. The chief matter is to have the grooves 
shallow, and roimd; not wedge shape, or the strings 
are inclined to stick during the process of tuning. 

Observe the feet of the bridge. They fit the curve 
of the upper table so that no separate line of juncture 
can be seen. It is surprising how the tone of an instru- 
ment is affected by the bridge. So much is this the 
case that I have known soloists who were at great 
pains to try and duplicate a particularly fine bridge, 
in terror that if anything happened to the one which 
was fitted to the instrument the tone would be more 
or less ruined. 

It is advisable, when a new bridge is fitted, and it 
is found that the tone is all that can be desired, to secure 
at once a bridge cut from the same piece of wood. 
This bridge shouldbe cut to shape and kept in readiness 
in case of accident. 

Personally, I am of opinion that in this matter 
the larger instruments, like the violoncello and contra- 
bass, are more acutely affected by a change of bridge 
than are the smaller instruments. 

This opinion I have formed aft^ hearing violinists 
play in public within an hour of having a new bridge 
fitted. I always insist that a violoncello does not 
recover its tone for at least a week after having a new 
bridge fitted. It seems to take longer for the larger 
instruments to settle down after the operation. 



ALTHOUQH the sound-bar of the violoncello is 
usually termed the bass-bar, I discovered more 
than twenty years ago that the term is a misnomer. 

In a letter to " The Strad," which was published 
in the issue of October, 1900, I wrote to the effect that 
I had proved by experiment that the old idea of the 
vibrations of the bass-strings proceeding down the 
left foot of the bridge, and thence to the bass-bar, was 
a fallacy. This discovery was made in a peculiar way, 
and is worth repeating. 

First it will be as well to state what, up to that time, 
were the usually accepted functions of bass-bar, bridge, 
and soimdpost. 

The most widely accepted idea was that the bridge 
acting as a reed, like the mouthpiece of the oboe, trans- 
mitted the vibrations to the column of air inside the 
instrument. So far, the analogy might be said to be 
very good ; it was in the elaboration of the method 
of this transmission that writers came to grief. 

Thus: — "The vibrations of the bass strings are 
carried down the left foot of the bridge to the bass- 
bar, and those of the treble strings down the right 
foot of the bridge to the soundpost/' 


Again : — " The function of the bass-bar is to restore 
to the belly the wood which is taken out in cutting 
the soundholes." 

Others, getting more advanced, and working on 
scientific lines, say : — " The bass-bar raises the plate 
note and thus neutralises the effect of the pressure 
of the bridge." 

Or : — " The functions of the bass-bar are to transmit 
to the entire belly the vibrations communicated to 
it by the left foot of the bridge, and to prevent it from 
entering into a series of segm^atal vibrations, and 
not, as l^ts so often been laid down, to strengthen the 

Other authorities pass over this part of the internal 
mechanism with only broad generalities, thus Hills 
say: — "Broadly speaking, its function consists in 
retarding the vibrations of the one side of the belly, 
thus materially helping to obtain the graver bass notes." 

Hart, in the 1909 edition of his famous book, says : 
— " The bar of tlie violin not only serves the purpose 
of strengthening the isBtrument in that part where 
the pressure of the bridge is greatest, but forms a portion 
of the structure at once curious and deeply interesting. 

. . . Numerous attempts have been made to reduce 
these features to a philosophy, but the realisation of 
the coveted discovery appears as distant as ever." 

To return to the commencement of my own researches 
on the subject. A friend of mine, who was what is 
commonly termed left-handed, commenced playing 
the violoncello. He consulted a violin maker, who 
advised that he should have bass-bar and soundpost 
reversed ; as this seemed sensible, he had it done. A 


few years later he wished to dispose of the instrument, 
and not wishing to incur the expense of having the 
bar again moved back to its original position, if not 
absolutely necessary, he merely reversed the strings 
when, to his amazement, he found that the tone Was 
quite as good, or, as he stated, ^* better, if anything." 
This violoncello passed into the hands of a well-known 
professional who played it for some time before he 
discovered that the bar and soundpost were in reversed 

This incidait, which I quoted in some correspondence 
to " The Strad " of twenty years ago, gave me the 
germ of an idea, which I daresay is now more or less 
eommon property. 

I discovered that the vibrations of a stringed instru- 
ment wer6 of two kinds, as I have previously stated 
(see page 44) i.e., active and passive. When a full 
ehord or arpeggio is played on all the four strings, 
practically the whole of the instrument vibrates actively. 
When the highest notes of the A string are played, only 
a small part of the belly vibrates actively, the adjacent 
parts vibrating passively. 

If the bass-bar is of sufficient size and weight* and 
properly placed, the active and passive vibrations of 
the beUy are so controlled that every note tells out 
clear and firm. If this important piece of mechanism 
is not properly constructed, the parts of the instrument 
which should produce the tone by active vibratk)n 
only vibrate passively, or perhaps do not vibrate at 
all, we then get " wolf notes," and false or weak 

This does not dispose of many theories which may be 


scientifically correct, such as plate-notes, bridge pressure, 
etc., etc. ; but it does account, as I have proved by 
numerous experiments, for the mechanical action of 
bar and bridge. 

Although the upper table may be strong enough — 
as some writers state — ^to bear the pressure of the 
bridge, even without the bar ; it will be found that the 
tone is weak and hollow, and, in some parts of the 
register, no " body " of tone is able to be produced. 
Experiments have been made in order to see if it were 
not possible to do away with the sound-bar ; for instance, 
the wood in the left half of the belly has been left of a 
sufficient thickness to compensate for the absence of 
the bar ; the result was very detrimental to the tone. 

It is thought that the ancients did not at first 
glue in a separate bar, but merely left the wood in a 
thick ridge at this part of the bridge. Indeed, I have 
had instruments of the conmioner Brescian type which 
had the upper table so carved. 

The usual plan is to glue the bar in a slightly oblique 
position, more or less following the line of the bass- 
string. This is in order that the fibres or grain of the 
belly over a certain area will be controlled by the 
vibration of the sound-bar, and not, as is so often 
supposed, that the bar follows the line of the bass string, 
so that it will vibrate in sympathy with it. 

The generally accepted rules are : — " A weak bar 
gives a hollow, unsubstantial tone to the lower strings. 
A bar which is too heavy causes the tone to be hard to 
produce, a short bar often gives " wolf " notes, and a 
bar which is too long, or which is set too obUque, 
impedes the vibrations. 


It will be seen then that it requires great experience 
to judge to a nicety the exact size, weight, and position 
of this most important part of the violoncello. Many 
modem makers err in making the bar too substantial. 
The result is that the tone of so many modem instru- 
ments is dull, woody and heavy. This seems to apply 
more frequently to the violoncello than the smaller 
instruments, the dimensions of which are more standard- 
ized and thus better understood and regulated. 

The character of the instrument, the density of the 
pine of the upper table, and many other matters have 
to be taken into accoimt when fixing the dimensions 
and position of the sound-bar ; however, the following 
dimensions taken from an old Italian instrument, of 
standard size, although of slight build, will be of interest. 
Length of bar, 24 inches ; greatest depth, |ths ; width 
at each end, ^ inch ; width in centre, | inch ; distance 
from centre joint, upper end, |ths ; lower end, f ths. 
The bar is ** set in " from the upper circle of soundhole 


This bar is slightly shorter, and also slightly wider 
than the original, which also had been placed a little 
more oblique than the modem bar. 



AN important feature of the internal arrangements 
of the violoncello is the aoundpost. Together 
with the bridge and the soimd-bar, it influences the 
vibrations of the instrument in a very direct and fOTcible 

The soundpost is peculiar to instruments played with 
the bow. Stringed instruments of percus^on, like the 
pianoforte ; or rustruments played with the plectrum, 
or plucked with the fingers, like the harpsichord, the 
mandoline or the guitar, have the soundboard, and 
some form of sound-bar ; but they do not possess that 
most important feature of the violin tribe, the soundpost, 
and it is to this peculiarity that we must look for. an 
explanation of some of its functions. 

Numerous experiments have been made in order to 
reduce these functions to a scientific formula, and, in 
many cases — as with similar experiments to the bridge, 
sound-bar, and plates of the instrument — one truth 
has been discovered, and this has been seized upon 
and wrongly set up as the whole end and aim of this 
piece of mechanism. 

Thus one discovered that the soundpost established 
a nodal-point, and caused the production of over- 


tones ; another that the upward pressure of the post 
neutralized the weight of the bridge ; and again, that 
the post centralized the vibrations after being carried 
the length of the plate by the sound-bar, and so on. 

Hart says : — " It is the medium by which the 
vibratory powers of the instrument are set in motion ; 
it gives support to the right side of the belly, it transmits 
vibrations and regulates both the power and quality 
of tone." 

Heron-Allen says : — " The object of the soundpost 
is not so much to communicate the vibrations of the 
belly to the back, as to render the vibrations of the 
two plates similar (or normal) whilst it communicates 
them," and again, " the soundpost has therefore the 
same effect upon the belly and back as the bow has 
on the strings ; it continues the vibrations and keeps 
them regular with one another." 

Now, although these authorities seem contradictory, 
they are both more or less right in some degree. The 
only matter is that neither of them has exhausted all 
the functions of the soundpost: Although scientific 
research has made such wonderful progress during the 
past two decades, our knowledge of molecular activities 
is dtiU very incomplete, and the laws which govern 
the vibrations of an instrument of such simple con- 
struction as the violoncello are less easily understood 
than those which are brought into pli^y by a machine 
of more complex construction. 

To return to some of the elementary truths relating 
to the soundpost. It should be constructed of well- 
seasoned pine. The wood need not be of the 200-year- 
old Swiss pine we read so much about. It is a fact that 



wood, if too old, especially if it has been kept in an 
atmosphere too dry, loses much of its elasticity of fibie. 

(«) Bass-bar. 

Diagram 2. 
{b) Bridge-feet. 

{c) Soundpott. 

This strength and elasticity of fibre is, to my mind, 
the chief desideratum of violin wood, and particularly 


of the soundpost. It should be made of straight-grained 
pine, which is not of too great a density of fibre, and 
in most cases the reed should be much in evidence — 
that is to say the wood, although of a soft nature, 
should not be too pulpy. 

Some few years ago I had several modem violoncellos 
which were fitted with pitchpine posts. These posts, 
instead of being cylindrical, were left square. The 
result was, in every case, a very decided deadening 
of the tone. 

Let me explain to the tyro that the post should not 
be glued in position. It should be cut of such a length 
that if the pressure of the bridge be removed the post 
just keeps in position. If the post is too long, it forces 
the back and belly apart, and this is very detrimental 
to the tone. If the wood used in making the soundpost 
is not sufficiently seasoned, a certain amount of shrinkage 
takes place, and, in course of time, the tone of the 
violoncello is found to be feeble and dull ; this may 
also occur from other reasons ; from the plates warping, 
or the back being pushed out with the pressure of the 
post. I have had several instruments of the Grancini 
and Testore types where the backs were constructed 
of pear, or poplar, which have had this defect in a 
marked degree. In one instance, quite a large protuber- 
ance showed on the back, and this was found very 
difficult to remedy. It was successfully accomplished 
in the following maimer. The part under the post was 
thoroughly soaked with water by the application of 
wet rags. A thick block of sycamore was glued over 
the spot, and the back pressed and clamped tightly 
to it. The back was left for several days so that the 


moisture would evaporate, then the block of sycamore 
was carefully reduced. By this means a soundpost 
of proper length could be fitted, and the tone was 
materially improved. 

The thickness of the post should not be governed 
by the width of the centre of the soundholes, but by 
the actual requirements of the particular instrument. 
This may seem superfluous, but I can assure my readers 
it is not so. In quite a number of cases I have dis- 
covered that the tone of an instrument has sufiered 
owing to the soundpost being too thin. On removing 
the post and attempting to fit another, I discovered 
the reason of this defect. The soundholes at their 
centres were so narrow that it was impossible in the 
ordinary way to insert one of stouter dimensions. 
On remarking on this to a maker, I was astoimded to 
hear him reply : — " Yes ! I have had several instru- 
ments like that. The best way is to, cut away the 
F-hole, so that a thicker post can be fitted." I am 
afraid this has been done pretty frequently in the past, 
not only to fit a stouter post, but with the crude idea 
that a large soundhole would " let out the sound," — 
and thus one often comes across instruments which 
have been irretrievably ruined. 

Now, if the instrument requires it, it is a very simple 
matter to fit a stout post, even if the soundhole at the 
centre is too narrow to allow of its being introduced 
in the usual manner. The most obvious way is to pass 
the soundpost through the lower circle of the soundhole ; 
insert the post-setter through the centre of the F as 
usual, and pick up the post ; then a^djust in the usual 


Its history, selection and adjustment. 63 

If the post is too thin, the tone will be thin also ; 
if too thick, too heavy — or if the wood has deteriorated 
with age — ^the tone will be more or less muffled. Th6 
position of the post, however, is of perhaps eveii more 
importance than the material of which it is composed. 

It should be placed in a line with the centre of the 
right foot of the bridge, at about the distance of half 
an inch. If the model is decidedly flat, the post may 
be adjusted slightly further away ; if the instrument 
is of very high model, the post may be placed slightly 
nearer. In adjusting the post, it is necessary to remove 
the end-pin, so that it is possible to see when the post 
is perfectly upright. The ends of the post should be 
slightly on the bevel, so that a perfect fit is accorded 
to each end against the curves of the upper and lower 
table. The grain of the post, as seen at the upper 
end, should cross the grain of the upper table. 

The soujidpost, by its simple construction and manner 
of fitting, is the one feature which is most often experi- 
mented with in order to improve the tone of a faulty 
instrument. A violoncello bridge requires some skill 
in craftsmanship to fit properly, and the bass-bar 
requires the upper table to be removed before experi- 
ments can be made with its construction or position ; 
but the soundpost is so easy to fashion and fit in place 
that many amateurs make the attempt to improve 
the tone by an alteration of this very simple organism. 
A few hints on the effect of the different positions of 
the post will therefore be of interest. 

It is useless to attempt to correct faults of a glaring 
nature by the soundpost alone. Personally, I always 
insist that the correct procedure is : — ^First, the bass- 


bar. An experienced and thoughtful workman will 
know by the model, thickness and density of the plates, 
and other matters which he alone can grasp, the par- 
ticular style of bass-bar to insert. Accepting this 
fitting as correct, then much can be done with the 
bridge and post. The bridge should follow the bass- 
bar in point of priority, as this is also regulated by — 
or in conjunction with — ^the set of the neck. When these 
two features have been fitted according to the special 
requirements of the particular instrument, the delicate 
final adjustments can be made, and these adjustments 
corrected by aid of the post. 

If the A string is too weak, and a corresponding 
harshness is noticed on the lower strings, move the 
post slightly nearer the soundhole ; that is, away from 
the centre of the instrument. If the D string is dull, 
and the A string harsh, move the post further towards 
the centre of the instrument. In making these adjust- 
ments, it must be remembered that as the centre of 
the instrument is approached the distance between 
the plates increases, thus requiring a slightly longer 

My opinion has been asked with respect to the hollow 
Boundpost, and other inventions of a similar nature. 

Experiments have been made with soundposts of 
glass, of cane with hollow centre, square posts, and 
various shapes of hollow posts with holes drilled cross- 
ways in various positions. In some cases I have found 
the hollow post of use, but generally speaking these 
are all more or less useless innovations. The hollow 
post is occasionally of advantage to correct certain 
inherent faults in the construction of the plates. If 


a hollow post is fitted, it should be one made by a firm 
of repute, and not one of the home-made variety. 
Only recently I had an instrument which had every 
appearance of possessing a splendid tone. This instru- 
ment was of good proportions, well made, the wood 
of good quality and appearance, the varnish was equal 
to any of the old English school. It was beautifully 
fitted with neck and bridge correctly adjusted, and 
yet the tone — especially on the A and D strings — ^was 
poor and dull. This violoncello had been the bSte-noir 
of several well-known professional players who had been 
attracted by its appearance^ but were simply appalled 
with its poor muffled tone. 

After trjring it for a week to become accustomed to 
the charaetet of its tone, and the idiosjmcrasies of the 
instrument, I made an attempt to remove the soundpodt. 
To my amazement it simply crumpled away. On 
removing the pieces, I found it was a hollow post of 
home construction. The fibres of the wood, naturally 
weakened by faulty boring, had withered away, and 
on the slightest touch with the 'post-setter it simply 
fell to pieces. After I had fitted a new post the instru- 
ment turned out one of the finest for tone I had tried 
for many long years. 

Diagram 2 illustrates the relative position of bass-bar 
(note how it is splayed from the centre joint), bridge 
and soundpost. The positions of these interior fittings 
are given as they would be seen if the upper table 
were transparent, and they could be viewed from 
the exterior of the instrument. 



ONE of the most difficult operations in the adjust- 
ment of the violoncello is that of grafting a 
new neck. 

From the numerous letters which I receive on the 
subject, I am tempted to think that. in the provinces, 
at any rate, there is a great scarcity of repairers who 
are willing to undertake this exacting operation. One 
cannot be surprised at this. In grafting a new neck 
to a violin, the operation requires extreme accuracy of 
measurement and cutting, and calls for the highest 
skill in craftsmanship ; but in performing the same 
operation on the violoncello, in addition to this accuracy, 
the work entaUs quite a heavy piece of joinery. 

There are various methods of grafting ; that known 
as the English (see diagram 3) is perhaps the easiest, 
and although it entails cutting away a little more of 
the original scroll-wood than is the case with some of 
the Continental methods, it is more suited to the capa- 
bilities of the amateur. The French method (diagram 
4) is more frequently employed, this necessitates a 
cross-cut in the front walls of the peg-box, which is 
very difficult to get sufficiently true to give a good 


To describe the Engljp^ method roughly. The 
upper end of the graft is cut to a wedge, the inteiioi 
of the peg-box is cut away to receive this solid wedge 
(see diagrams 5 and 6), the interior of the peg-box is 

Diagram 3. Diagram 4. 

then once more ezcav&ted, and the peg-holes re-bored. 
Great care must be taken that the sides of the wedge 
are cut perfectly true, so that the scroll when fitted is 
in perfect line with the neck. 



Diagram 5. 

Diagram 6. 


In removing an old neck from a violoncello, the 
utmost care should be taken to prevent the sides of 
the mortice in the upper block from being torn awaj. 
The usual procedure is first to cut oS. the scroll, then 
to make a clean cut right across the root of the n^k 
as close to the body as possible. Whilst performing 
this operation, the amateur should look to see if the 
original neck has been secured with one or more x^ikils. 

Diagram 7. 

It was quite customary in olden days to drive nails 
right through the upper block into the root of the neck. 
If one or more nails are present, they should be forced 
through into the interior of the instrument, then the 
saw once more can be brought into use, and the remains 
of the old neck cut a little closer to the body. 

When this has been done, the wood which remains 
in the mortice must be chipped away with a joiner's 


chisel, and the cavity made perfectly clean and trae 
to receive the new graft. 

At this stage of the proceedings it is as well to see 
that the mortice is exactly central. In many old Italian 
instruments the neck may have been quite out of line 
with the centre of the body ; now is the time to remedy 
this defect. If the sides of the mortice have been torn, 
or it is found that the excavation is not central, it 
may be necessary to fill up the mortice and re-cut. 
This is generally accomplished in the following manner. 
A straight, clean cut is made at one — or if necessary 
at each — side of the chamber ; narrow slips of wood, 
corresponding in length to the depth of the ribs are 
then glued in position, and firmly wedged. The mortice 
is then re-cut. In order to keep these slips of wood in 
position until the glue is set, they are wedged firmly 
against the sides of the chamber by sticks placed cross- 

Before proceeding further, the button, i.e., that 
part which projects above the rim of the back of the 
violoncello, and against which the root of the neck 
fits, should receive attention. If the old neck has not 
been fitted true to the central line, it follows that the 
button may also not be central. In many cases it is 
found that the button has been damaged, or that it is 
insignificant in character, and quite unworthy of the 
instrument. The usual method is to affix an ebony 
margin ; this is also done in cases where the button 
is not of a proper size to allow the root of the neck 
to be of proper proportions. 

Some purists object to this ebony margin around 
the button, but personally I think it is highly effective 


and omamental. It is quite true that a few jeara 
ago it was applied indiscriminatelj, but where it is 
required the repairer need have no hesitation in intro 
ducing it. 

To return to the graft. The upper surface, %.e.y that 
part which is to receive the fingerboard, is planed to 
a good level and made perfectly smooth. The distances 
at the upper and lower ends are accurately measured 
and marked off, as diagram 5. All repairers keep 
templates for these standard measurements, such a 
template is used to mark off the lines and curves at 
the upper part of the graft, although at first this can 
only be cut approximately, as this curve must be cut 
according to the shape of the under part of the scroll. 
The root of the graft is cut to a template giving the 
necessary angle at which the neck has to be set, and 
here the question arises whether the button is to be 
left intact, or whether it is to be re-lined. If the former, 
the root of the neck is only cut roughly to shape, the 
final trimming is done after it is fixed ; if the button 
requires to be treated, the root of the neck is finished 
except for a final polishing, and the ebony rim of the 
button is trimmed down to it. 

The neck should project sufficiently above the body 
of the instrument, to allow a sufficient clearance of 
the fingerboard, and this affects the fingering to a 
considerable degree. A good and useful distance is 
shown in diagram 7. 

The standard measurements are as follows : — 

Length of graft from peg-box to root of neck, m inches. 

Width of upper surface at the lower part. If inches ; 
at the upper part where it enters peg-box, 1^ inches. 


If the English method of grafting is adopted, the 
jgraft must extend to just below the third peg-hole, 
this will give a length of graft of about 15 inches over- 
all. If the French method is used, the graft only extends 
to just below the second peg-hole, requiring a graft 
of roughly, say 1^ inches. 

At the point of entrance into the peg-box, the face 
of the graft is carried on five-sixteenths to receive the 
nut, that piece of ebony over which the strings pass. 

I must here make some remark about the " stop '' 
of an instrument. The length of stop can only be 
influenced very slightly by the length of graft. That 
is to say, it is useless to attempt to shorten the stop of 
a full size violoncello by fitting a very short neck. The 
stop is influenced by the distance from the centre of the 
sound-holes to the shoulder or the upper part of the 
body. If the soundholes happen to be cut very low, as 
is sometimes the case, it is necessary in order that the 
bow does not come in contact with the comers, that 
the bridge be placed a little nearer the top of the sound- 
holes. If this fault is very evident, the only way to 
get over the difficulty i^ to fill up the sound-holes and 
re-cut. Therefore, providing the instrument is properly 
proportioned, it is advisable to fit a full size instrument 
with a graft of standard length. If a shorter graft is 
fitted, the notes in the fourth position, the position 
which is directly over the junction of neck and body, 
will be in a very awkward place. 

The stop of the violonceUo under notice is 15| inches, 
this measurement refers to the distance from the centre 
of the bridge to the extreme edge of the upper part 
of the body. 


With a length of vibrating etiing of, say, 27 inches, 
the note A given at the half-slaing should occur at the 
distance of not more than two inches below the jtinction 
of the neck and body. It is quite evident if a very 
short neck is fitted to an instrument of full size, this 
note at the half-string will be in such a position that 
it will not be easily reached from the neck position. 




THERE are three small fittings of the violoncello 
which are often passed over as unimportant, but 
which I shall show have a great influence on the correct 
adjustment of the instrument, as well as materially 
affecting its appearance. 

These are the saddle, the nut, and the button. The 
last-named is really a projecting part of the back, but 
as mentioned in Chapter 12, it often has to be edged or 
lined with ebony, when it takes its place as a ^* fitting,'' 
and so forces itself imder our notice. 

The saddle, as previously described in Chapter 7, is 
a smaU piece of ebony over which passes the tail-gut. 
Many otherwise well-Lormed and^^ writers on 
stringed instruments persist in. calling this the *^ nut," 
or the ** lower nut " ; thereby confusing it with that 
piece of ebony at the peg-box end of the fingerboard. 
It is a pity that this confusion should exist over so 
simple a matter — ^the term saddle is much more applic- 
able and far preferable. 

It is absolutely essential that the saddle should 
fit properly. Unlike the nut — ^which has a good support 


ftgaiiLst the Bquaie end of tlie fingerboaid — tte saddle 
most depend on its close adhesion to the lower block 

DtaiJ 8 

Dio^ 12 

for its power to resist the puli of the stringe. It ha« 
very little assbtance from the edge of the upper table, 
especially in old instruments, as the table at this 


point is often weak, or has been weakened by repeated 
removals when the instrument has been undergoing 

In ancient times, the saddle did not assume the 
importance that it does under modem conditions. 
The tension of the strings was not so great with the 
old pitch and a low bridge, and the method of affixing 
the tail-piece was different to our modem method. 
The fitting of the tail-piece was more or less like that 
used for the viola-da-gamba. Diagrams 8 and 9 will 
iUustrate this point, it will readily be seen that a much 
greater forward pull is given by the modem tail-piece 
in comparison with the old style, the puU of which was 
more in an upwaid direction. 

Many old instruments which I have seen in their 
original condition have this old form of saddle. It 
was constructed of a straight slip of hard wood — often 
pearwood, or beech— stained a dark brown, or perhaps 
black. Its purpose was merely to prevent the gut, 
or copper wire, which ever was used to affix the tail- 
piece, from cutting into the upp^ table. 

With our modem tail-piece, a saddle is required which 
projects higher from the plane of the upper-table. 
Only in this manner can sufficient clearance be obtained. 
According to a very simple rule in mechanics, the higher 
this saddle projects above the table, the more is it 
likely to succumb to the increased forward pull. It 
is evident, then, that this simple little fitting must 
be prc^erly executed, if it fulfils all that is required 
from it. 

In fitting a new saddle to an old instrument, the 
procedure is as follows. Select a piece of ebony, say 


2| inches by i inch in depth*^ and of a width 
which will correspond with the width of the border of 
the table, measuring from the inner line of the purfling. 
The inner line of the purfling should run smoothly 
into, and be continued along the inner edge of the 
saddle, and the outer edge of the table should also 
run smoothly with the outside of ike saddle. 

First see that the incision in the upper table which 
is to reeeive the saddle is perfectly central, otherwise 
the tail-piece will not pass over the centre when the 
saddle is adjusted. Having arranged this, and carefully 
cleared out the space so that the three sides of the 
excavation and the exposed upper surface of the block 
are quite true, the piece of ebony may be cut to fit. 

A better fitting can be made if the block of ebony 
is first 'Hrued up," and the incision in the table is 
carefully traced with a point — ^not a pencil — ^then the 
pine is cut to fit. It will be seen, however, that if the 
operation is repeated, the saddle must encroach further 
and further into the valuable surface of the instrument. 
Do not make any attempt to shape the outer surfaces 
of the saddle at this stage, leave it as a somewhat 
rough oblong piece of ebony, see diagram 10. When 
fixing in position let the glue be hot and strong, and 
also warm the piece of ebony so that the glue does 
not set before it is in position. Give one or two extra 
dabs of glue to the lower block, as the pine soaks up 
the glue more rapidly than does the ebony. Now 
press firmly into position, and with a rag moistened 
with warm water, carefully wipe off all superfluous 
glue which may ooze out of the joints. 

In all repairs to stringed instruments this precaution 


of not allowing the glue to set on the surface of the 
varnish should always be taken. Whilst the glue is 
warm it is easily removed, and the place cleaned with 
a moist rag ; after the glue has set hard, there is a 
danger that it will bring away some of the varnish 
if drastic measures are taken to clean it off. 

If the saddle has been well fitted and properly glued, 
there will be no need to use the clamps, but it is better 
to err on the safe side. See that the clamp is adjusted 
properly, and that the saddle does not move in the 
slightest degree out of position when pressure is applied. 

I find the single screw clamp is preferable to the old- 
fashioned double-screw wooden one. The single screw 
iron clamp is more readily adjusted, and the pressure 
can be gauged more readily. 

When the glue is thoroughly hard the clamp may be 
removed, and the saddle trinmied to shape, see diagrams 

II to 13. 

A line is ruled slightly nearer the outer edge than 
the centre, and measuring one third from each end ; 
this central portion is left intact, the parts at each 
end are carefully pared away imtil the ends melt into 
the upper table. The wood at the inner side of the 
line is also carefully pared away, and finally rubbed 
down with fine glass-paper wrapped round a suitable 
holder until it attains the requisite shape ; the outer 
edge of the saddle being finally trimmed and smoothed 
imtil its outline coincides with the outline of the lower 
edge of the table. 

The dull smooth polish which looks so well in ebony 
can be produced by using the finest emery cloth, moist- 
ened with oil. Linseed oil slightly thinned with tur- 


pentine is generally used, but some makers and re- 
pairers prefer the slightly thinner and more transparent 
poppy oil. It is of no consequence so long as a drying 
oil is used, or an oil that will evaporate. Some oils, 
olive oil for instance, turn rancid, and soak into the 
pores of any exposed surface of the wood. 



ALTHOUGH the button is an important part of the 
anatomy of the instrument, undue importance 
should not be given to it after the manner of cranks 
and faddists. 

It seems there are cranks on every subject und^ 
the sun, but one would think that this small semi- 
circular piece of wood~HSO small that it can well be 
covered by a halfpenny-piece— would have escaped 
their notice. Such is not the case however, and there 
are many so-called experts who will appraise or condemn 
an instrument solely on the evidence furnished by the 
particular shape of the button. 

It often happens that an instrument of fine propor- 
tions and massive bold outline has a button of such a 
miserable weak character that one can only come to the 
conclusion that it has been whittled down out of all 
shape by successive repairers. It would seem a pity 
then to condemn such an instrument on this evidence 
alone. It is quite a conmion occurrence for the button 
to be damaged ; the neck sustains an injury, perhaps 
it is knocked o£E completely, dragging the button off 
with it; or perhaps the instrument has had more 


than oae graft fitted, and at each operation a trifle 
is taken off the button to make it fit the root of the 
neck. An instrument goes through many vicissitudes 
in the course of a couple of himdred years. 

The outline of the button should correspond more or 
less with the main characteristics of the outline of the 

Daq l^ 


Dia^ 16 

instrument, and one notices that in the early instru- 
ments by Stradivari where the curves are rounded, 
the button is more or less circular. Indeed, in some 



of his early violins the button is an exact semi-circle^ 
see diagram 14. In this manner the greatest of all 
makers sought to repeat and accentuate the curves of 
his instrument in that crowning piece of the back. 

U the inBtrument is of an exceptionaUy angular 
character, such as one finds in the instruments of 
Carlo Bergonzi— or, rather, in the instruments attributed 
to this maker — ^the button will be further removed 
from the circular, and should approach more and more 
to an oval, indeed, in some cases, it should be an oval 
with the sides considerably flattened. See diagram 15. 

The repairer will see from the above remarks that 
each instrument should be treated differently ii^ this 
matter of re-edging the button. It is of no use to have 
a stock template for the root of the neck, and to fashion 
the button of every instrument, no matter what its 
characteristics, in accordance with the stock shape. 

I do not know at what period the vogue of re-edging 
the button capie into prominence, but it is a well-known 
fact that many instruments have had this operation 
performed on them when there has been no reason 
whatever for doing so. In days gone by, the button 
was left severely alone by repairers, any attempt to 
restore it to its proper shape was conside^ vandalism. 
Kepairers had to fit their new grafts to whatever shape 
of button happened to be left on the instrument. Then 
the pendulum swung to the other extreme ; certain 
firms noted for the excellence of their repairs intro- 
duced the ebony edged button, and after this, every 
instrument which had to be re-grafted must, of course, 
be trctated in similar fashion. 

Perscmally, I like the appearance of this ebony 


margin, and providing the original button of good 
proportions has not been tampered with in order to 
fix this useful decoration, I see no grounds for objecting 
to its use. 

Diagram 16 gives an example of an ill-shaped button, 
taken from a valuable old Italian instrument. It will 
be seen that it is an impossible task to attempt to 
graduate the root of the neck to such an ill-shaped 
abominaticm, and this is a case where the operation of 
re-edging is fully justified. 

The method of performing this operation is as follows : 
Prepare a flat piece of ebony the thickness of the back 
of the instrument at its margin, and somewhat larger 
than the button will be when finished. Out of a pece 
of veneer cut a small template to the exact shape 
which it is intended to give the inner edge of the margin. 
Now with a steel point trace the outline, first on the 
original button, and then on the piece of ebony. 

Here let me explain why I always recommend the 
use of the steel point for tracing outlines which have 
to be cut with a great degree of precision. No matter 
how fine you make the pencil point, it gives a rough 
ragged line, whereas the line produced with the steel 
point is more or less an incision, and a keen-eyed work- 
man will fit the edge of his chisel or gouge into this 
microscopic incision, and making it part of one clean 
cut, give you a perfectly true edge without any further 

Som^ repairers say, " Trace the outline with a fine 
pencil point, and then cut along the centre of the pencil 
mark." This is all right for large sweeping outlines 
which have later to be trimmed up with file or sand- 




paper, but in eveiy case where a clean cut has to be 
made, and especially where the portions cut have to 
be made into a close-fitting joint, the steel point is a 

We have now arrived at the stage where the ebony 
margin has been cut at its inner edge to fit the outline 

given the button, both these edges must be perfectly 
smooth and true. Observe the little wedge-shaped 
cuts at the base of the margin. The next procedure 
is to glue the margin to the root of the neck — ^if a neck 
is already fitted, carefully wiping away any glue that 
exudes from the joint during the operation. See diagram 


When the glue is perfectly hard, the rough margin 
may be trimmed to shape with a very sharp chisel, 
taldng only very small parings, and working away 
very gradually until the base of the neck is reached. 
The work must then be finished with fine glass-paper, 
and in this case it is usual to give the ebony a coat of 
hard spirit varnish, the same as is used for violin necks. 
The varnish when hard is rubbed down and polished 
until it takes the dull shine which matches the old 
varnish already on the instrument. See diagram 18. 



r-is of little use to own a fine violoncello if the 
ordinary laws relative to its well-beiDg are not 
understood. These are so simple that at first sight it 
seems absurd to imagine that anyone can err in the 
matter ; one has only to inspect a number of old 
instruments to prove that — ^in times gone by, at any 
rate — ^both ignorance and carelessness have ruined 
many fine ezamiples of the luthier's art. 

An instrument of such proportions as the violonceUo 
is more liable to accident than is one of lesser bulk. 
It is an unwieldy travelling companion, and seems 
always to be in everyone's way. The first care, then, 
should be to provide a proper travelling case. Per- 
sonally, I prefer — and have used for a number of years 
— a very substantial case of American leather. I 
always make it a strict rule to act as my own porter, 
and never, under any pretext, allow anyone to carry 
my violoncello. If the travellii^ violoncellist objects 
to follow my example, it is necessary to use a stout 
wooden case ; the variety known as the English dub- 
head is the best ; the violoncello can then be trusted 
to the tender mercies of servants and railway porters. 
When sending a violoncello by rail, unaccompanied 
by the owner, certain extra precautions should be 


observed. Always see that the instrument is tightly 
packed ; many injuries are caused by the instrument 
shaking about in the case. See that the space between 
the scroll and the head o{ the case is wedged tightly 
with a pad of newspaper, and the same at the lower 
end, and at the comers. This precaution will assist 
the violoncello to resist any slight shocks, the newspaper 
pads acting as buffers. An important matter in selecting 
a wood case is to see that plenty of space is allowed 
over the bridge. In the lid of the case is a kind of 
cavity into which the bridge projects ; the bridge should 
not fit into this part of the lid at all tightly, or the 
slightest shock may cause damage. If these hints 
are attended to, and the case is sufficiently strong, 
no harm is likely to occur under normal conditions. 
Make it a practice always to insure an instrument to 
full value when sending by rail. 

I object very strongly to the modem waterproof 
canvas case. This requires some explanation, as of 
Course these canvas cases are in almost universal use. 
If you must have one, try and obtain one of the very 
best make, then some of the objections here raised 
against them will be invalid. The majority — especially 
of the cheaper kind — ^are rough inside, and made of 
very stiff material. A case of this description does not 
offer any resistance to knocks and blows, and if the 
violoncello fits at all tightly there is great danger 
of damage in putting on the case and taking it off. 
If a strap or handle is fitted to the side> and is used 
for carrying purposes, a great strain is placed on the 
bridge. Then again, the use of the bow-pocket, especially 
in the hands of a careless or forgetful person, is highly 


dangerous. I have often stood in abject terror whilst 
pupils have been taking out their violoncellos, and 
in many instances — ^aftei a painful struggle in which 
both the instrument and the ornaments on the mantel- 
piece were in danger — ^a timely reminder has just 
saved the life of the bow, which, inadvertently, had 
been left in the bow-pocket. It is a good plan, if the 
bow-pocket is used, to enlarge it sufficiently so that 
a narrow slip of wood can be permanently jfixed along 
the whole length of it. Then if, by chance, the bow 
is left in, it has some support against accidental pressure. 
The better plan is to have a separate bow-case, made 
of wood. This can be strapped to the case, if there 
is any .danger of it being left behind, or forgotten in 
the excitement of preparing for a concert. 

One of the most common causes of deterioration and 
damage is the comimon habit of leaving the instrument 
either lying about or standing in a comer of the room. 
A recital of the damages caused by carelessness in 
this respect would need many chapters. Scores — 
nay hundreds— of times I have pointed out the danger 
to pupils, to be met, in nearly every case, with the 
reply, " Oh ! it's quite safe ! No one ever thinks of 
coming into this room, or if they do, they always look 
out for the *cello." 

'An instance where a pupil was thorougjhly cured of 
the habit of leaving the instrument about is worth 
quoting. In the midst of his morning practice my pupa 
was called out of the room, and adopting his usual 
plan, he placed the violoncello safely on the floor on 
a nice soft skin rug in front of the fire. The bow was 
carefully placed on the instrument, and casting a loving 


look at it as he carefully closed the door, or, rather, he 
always affirmed that he closed the -door, my pupil 
went to interview the caller. About half-an-hour later 
he was alarmed at the various peculiar sounds issuing 
from the music room, and what met his gaze as he 
returned to investigate could only adequately be 
described by a much more fluent pen than mine. His 
young puppy had gained access to the room, and tiring 
of his attempt to devour the ivory frog of the valuable 
Dodd bow, was playing fetch and carry with it, whilst 
the violoncello lay blistering in the heat^ of the fire. 

In days gone by it was quite common to see^ gld 
violoncello himg up by its neck in the kitchen of some 
old out-of-the-way farmhouse. The owner would 
tell you proudly that it had hung there ever since 
grandfather played it in the village church, at a period 
before organs were distributed by a generous and 
phiknthropic miUionaire. At one time, I was lucky 
enough to rescue a valuable Italian violoncello from 
such an invidious position ; it had hung by its neck 
until the glue had perished, and the body had noisily 
crashed to the floor, much to the dismay of the old 
dame, its owner, who took the catastrophe as a '* token." 

I hope none of my readers adopt this plan of hanging 
up the violoncello on the kitchen wall. A violoncello 
exposed to the varying atmosphere of a kitchen is 
exposed to many dangers. The wood first soaked with 
moisture, then dried with excessive heat, is bound to 
warp and twist, and before long the tone suflers con- 
siderably. An instrument so exposed is also the happy 
hunting ground for flies, and a convenient hibernating 
place for them during the winter. 


I am often asked what pieparation I use to keep my 
infitroment in such fine condition. My answer is 
generally very disappointing to those pupils who 
imagine that a bottle of some special kind of liquid 
will take the place of years of constant and regular 
attention. My plan is always to wipe ofiE the resin 
from the fingerboard and the table immediately after 
use, and put the violoncello straight away in its case. 
Luckily, I am the possessor of an unique case. It is 
in the form of a music cabinet, and was made to my 
own design. It was an attempt to show that a convenient 
receptacle for the violoncello could be constructed 
which should, at the same time, be a pleasure to look 
at. Besides being a pleasing piece of furniture, it 
stands there positively inviting you to replace the 
instrument immediately you have finished with it. 

To the orchestral player the following hints may 
be of service. Make it a regular practice to dust. o£E 
the resin each time the instrument is used ; in spite 
of this, a certain amount is bound to adhere to the 
fingerboard ; now take a rag and sprinkle on it a few 
drops of spirit — ^Eau-de-Cologne, or methylated spirit 
— «jid rub the fingerboard briskly. Care must be taken 
that none of the spirit touches the varnish on the 
body of the instrument, or that will be removed also. 
A few drops of poppy oil may be rubbed all over the 
instrument occasionally, and will help to feed the 
varnish and keep it in lustrous condition. 

To sum up. The instrument should be protected 
from damage by the use of common-sense and foresight. 
It should not be unduly exposed to varying temperature. 
An, excess of moisture is harmful, so is an atmosphere 


which is too dry. In this country, however, there 
should be no difficulty bx choosing a suitable place 
in which to keep the violoncello. I suppose no one 
would be so absurd as to keep the instrum^it in the 
airing cupboard, or near hot water pipes. A pupil in 
India informs me that at certain seasons the atmosphere 
is so humid he has to place pieces of lime in his violon- 
cello case. At first when he went out there, and did 
not know of this precaution, his instrument was con- 
stantly coming ofi the glueing, or« as he termed it, 
" unstuck." The effect of the lime is to absorb the 
excess moisture. 



A WORE on the violoncello would be incomplete if 
it did not contain some reference to the bow. 
This part of our subject has been so ably treated already 
in that admirable book, ♦ " The Bow : Its History, 
Manufacture and Use/' by Henry Saint-George, that 
my remarks must only be confined to generalities. 

If any of my readers is the lucky owner of a good 
bow, I should advise him to treasure it with loving 
care. In nothing appertaining to stringed instruments 
— ^unless it be in the matter of the strings themselves — 
have we proved so dependent on the foreign producer 
as in violoncello bow making. 

It still seems possible to come across a fairly good 
violin bow at a reasonable price, but the violoncello 
bow seems to be absolutely ofiE the market. A short 
time ago I personally went to nearly a dozen of the 
largest dealers in London to try and purchase bows 
for my pupils, and I found it was absolutely impossible 
to come across a bow which was at all fit to use under 
the price of £5. The usually good Continental bow 
of the better class, retailed at about £2, was nowhere 
to be foimd, and in its place was either an extremely 
poor substitute, of poor wood and worse fittings, or 
the price was too high for the average amateur. 

* Strad Idbnuy, Na 3. 


Now is the time for the craft of bow-making to be 
taken up with vigour ; in the work previously mentioned 
the author says the whole operation connected with the 
making of a single bow can be accomplished in one 
day. If that is the case, it should pay any expert 
craftsman to devote his attention to bow-making; 
by grading the sticks into three qualities, and selling 
at £2, £3, and £5 each he would soon reap a handsome 

Personally, I have used a bow by Hill and Sons for 
the past fifteen years, and although I have had several 
of these fine specimens of the bow-maker's art, it seems 
I must have had a love for one bow in particular, as 
I find I always use this particular bow in preference 
to the others. Many of my pupils cannot credit the 
statement that I have used practically one bow during 
the whole of this period, I will therefore give some 
hints on the care and preservation of the bow. 

On receiving a new bow from the maker, or one 
that has been re-haired, it is advisable to adopt the 
following plan. If the bow has been already resined 
these hints do not apply. Take a clean linen rag, 
moistened with petrol, or methylated spirit, and rub 
the hair vigorously on both sides of the ribbon. Do 
not touch the stick with the spirit ; it does not seem 
to aSect the polish on some sticks, but on others the 
polish is affected straight away. 

The effect of the spirit on the hair is to take away 
any grease which may happen to be there, and to give 
a perfectly clean suiiace in readiness for the applica- 
tion of the resin. 

When repairers resin a newly re-haired bow, they 


apply powdered resin in the following manner. A 
cardboard box, the full length of the bow — usually 
a box in which bows aie shipped from abroad-is 
kept for the purpose. The powdered resin is spread 
evenly in the bottom of the box, and the hair of the 
bow is placed quite flat in the resin, which is vigorously 
rubbed in with a stubby hog's-hair brush. In this 
manner, the resin adheres thoroughly to the new hair ; 
the surplus is then flicked oS, and afterwards the bow 
is resined in the usual manner. If this procedure is 
not adopted it takes quite a time for the resin to adhere 
to the hair, and indeed, it never seems to permeate 
quite through the ribbon. 

The hair of the bow, when once resined, should nev^ 
be touched with the fingers. It is a matter of surprkse 
to me to see so many bows with a dark stain — ^more 
or less greasy — ^for an inch or two at the heel of the 
bow. The only explanation is that players make a 
practice of taking hold of the bow in such a manner 
that the fingers come in contact with the hair, the 
warmth and moisture of the hand melts the resin 
which, becoming sticky, causes the dust to adhere. 
Immediately after use, slacken the tension on the 
stick, shake o5 the resin from the loosened hair, 
and put the bow away in its case, or at least away from 
damp and dust. If these pteeautions are attended 
to, the hair of the bow will be as clean and good after 
a year of constant use as when new. 

After a bow has been in use for some time, it will be 
noticed that the hair becomes thin, and that it has 
taken on a slightly glossy appearance. It will also 
be found that the resin does not adhere so well, causing 


the bow to whistle or squeak over the strings instead 
of giving out a pure round tone. This is a sign that 
the bow requires re-hairing. Most amateurs neglect 
this, thinking that if the ribbon of hair looks fairly 
broad and thick it is all right. A professional, working 
three or four hours a day, should have two bows in 
alternate use, and each bow should be re-haired at 
least every six months. An amateur who does not 
play more than an hour a day should, with care, make 
a bow last, say, a year. 

The lappiQg of the bow should be kept intact. In 
attending to this, the wear on the stick is reduced to a 
minimum. Messrs. Hill and Sons have a very good 
patent lapping, made of a two-coloured strip of whale- 
bone. I find this superior to the ordinary silvered 
thread which is generally used, the latter soon wears 
through, and does not give that firm grip which the 
whale-bone lapping gives. At the lower end of the 
lapping a thumb-grip of leather is ajQ^ed, this thumb- 
grip should be frequently renewed so that the wear 
of the stick at this point is reduced to a mininium. 

The comfort of the player depends, a great deal, 
upon the shape and finish of the frog. If the upper 
portion — ^that part against which the thumb is placed 
— ^is at all pointed, it cuts into the tip of the thumb in 
a most distressing maimer. The best bows are usually 
beautifully finished in this respect, although occasionally 
I have come across a good bow which had this fault. 
It is advisable to pare away slightly the ebony at this 
point, if it is found too pointed, but great care 
must be taken. It is wiser to ask the bow repairer to 
do this, or if attempted it should be smoothed down 


very slightly with a nail file, or with a pieee of fine 

I am often asked how to wash the hair of the bow. 
If the foregoing hints are taken to heart there should 
be no need to perform this operation, and indeed, I 
do not think it desirable to attempt to wash the bow- 
hair. The better plan is to keep the bow away from 
dost, and if the hair is not touched with the fingers 
it should not require any treatment at all except the 
periodical re-hairing. 



THE remedy of common faults, and the lepair of 
slight damages to the violoncello will now be 

One of the most common complaints from which 
the violoncello suffers is the tendency to give out certain 
sounds foreign to the note produced. These are termed 
by various correspondents, "squeaks," "rattles,** 
"whistles," and other descriptive names according 
to the character of the particular sound produced. 

To the expert, the distinctive diaracter of the sound, 
and the part of the register in which it is produced 
help considerably to diagnose the trouble ; at the same 
time, these rattles and squeaks are very, annoying, 
and sometimes very difficult to remedy. 

The first care should be to make certain that it is 
the instrument which actually is giving out the unpleas- 
ant sound, or whether it is produced by some object 
in the room vibrating in sympathy with certain notes. 
A loose picture glass, a photograph frame standing 
on the piano — ^why will people put ornaments, flowers 
and books on the piano 'i—oi even the ordinary metal 
music-stand, if placed on a loose floor-board, direct 
in the line of vibration, will sometimes continue one 
note in most "unsympathetic" vibration. 



A short time ago, I had such an mstance brought 
to me. A pupil complained about a squeak on his 
violoncello; whenever he played it the squeak was 
there all right, but as soon as I took the instrument 
from his hands and played the same notes, the offending 
sound had vanished completely. It was the work of 
only a moment to discover that a coat-button just 
touched the back of the instrument, and on a certain 
note gave out a most unpleasant sound. 

When the source of the trouble has been proved to 
be in the instrument itself, the usual procedure is to 
test the various parts which are likely to have come 
off the glueing. This is done superficially, by rapping 
the instrument with the knuckles, or by using a felt- 
headed hammer. First test all round the body of the 
violoncello where the ribs are attached to the table ; 
if the glueing is intact, the sound produced should 
be musical — ^like that produced by a drum ; if the glue 
has perished, and the table has sprung away from the 
ribs, a sort of double sound is at once heard. It is not 
always in the body of the instrument however, as I 
experienced some time ago. A violoncello which I 
was adjusting had a distinct buzz on one note, and 
try as I might, I could discover no reason for it. One 
maker suggested it was the bass-bar, but I could not 
agree to this. At last I dismantled the instrument, 
and found to my astonishment that the neck was 
loose ; when the strings were tuned up to pitch, the 
pressure did not allow this defect to be noticed, but 
as soon as the tension was released it was quite apparent. 
A temporary repair was effected by running some thin 
glue under the root of the neck, using a very thin 


palette knife. The tension was then once more applied, 
and the neck firmly cramped into position, and what 
was intended for only a temporary repair has lasted 
to this day. 

If it is found that the table has sprang away from the 
ribs the method of glueing is as follows. If the injury 
is only quite recent, the glue may be applied without 
any preliminary cleaning, but if it is of long standing, 
and especially if an edging of thick dark-looking glue 
is in evidence, the part should be cleaned. This may be 
accomplished by dipping an old table-knife in warm 
water and working it about in the crack ; it will be 
found that much ancient glue and its accompanying 
dirt is brought away on the knife, which should then 
be cleaned, and the operation repeated. The glue which 
has oozed out of the joint — ^the remains of a former 
careless operation — should now be scrabbed away, 
using an old tooth brush and clean warm water — ^no 
soap — ^and the place carefully dried. Do not use an 
excess of water on the instrument at any time : it 
has a habit of soaking into the interior, and trouble 
is then sure to follow. Now as soon as the place to be 
glued has been thoroughly cleaned, and the cramps 
have been adjusted so that they can be slipped on with 
only the slightest final adjustment, the hot glue should 
be carefully worked into the joint as previously des- 
cribed. The operator should assure himself that sufficient 
glue has been applied ; this can be tested by pressing 
the parts together, if the glue oozes out of the joint, 
quickly adjust the cramps, and wipe away all surplus 

It is a good plan to provide several slips of wood ; 



on one side of each slip glue a piece of felt. Whenever 
any pressure has to be applied to the surface of the 
instrument, either by cramp or wedge, one of these 
felted slips should be placed with the felt side next 
to the instrument. If this is attended to, there will 
not be any of these disfiguring cramp-marks, so often 
in evidence on old instruments. Another precaution 
to be taken is not to apply too much force when cramp- 
ing the table or the back to the ribs. Many old instru- 
ments are exceedingly thin in the ribs, and if the cramps 
are too tightly adjusted the ribs are inclined to *' buckle." 
It is a safe plan to cease applying pressure as soon as 
the glue is seen to ooze out of the joint. 

Most repairs — except those relating to the bass-bar 
— can be effected without removing the table. The 
latter is an operation which should only be performed 
for specific reasons, or as a last resource. In order 
to effect internal reparro without the removal of the 
table— or with only a portion of it taken off the glueing 
— ^many ingenious tricks are practised; and indeed 
much ingenuity is displayed by a resourceful workman 
to " get over " specially tricky repairs, where a man 
without any imagination or resoiu'ce would remove 
the table as a necessary preliminary. 

A fracture of the ribs often requires to be strengthened 
by the addition of studs — small pieces of wood ghied 
across the fracture to strengthen the joint. There 
are several ways of affixing these studs; one of the 
most common is simply to insert them — already glued — 
one at a time on the end of tt pointed wire ; this is 
quite easy if they have to be placed in a position easy 
of access through the soundhole. If it is impossible 


to reach the part to be studded by this means, the 
repairer may find it necessary to release a portion of 
the table, this can then be wedged up, and the interior 
of the instrument approached through the aperture. 

A plan which I have followed when it has seemed 
feasible or when there has been any objection to dis- 
turbing the table even in a small area, may be worth 
relating. It sometimes happens that it is necessary 
to apply a fair amount of pressure to the inside of a 
fracture in order to force the adjacent parts outwards 
until they are in perfect line ; if the fracture happens 
to be in such a position that it is not eaeily reached 
from the outside, prepare a special stud, rather stouter 
than usual, and with a small hole drilled through the 
centre. Now through the fracture itself push a large 
needle attached to a double thickness of stout linen 
thread. Whilst retaining one end of the thread outside 
the instrument, allow the needle to come through the 
soundhole. It is an easy matter now to attach the 
stud, detach the needle, and, after glueing the inner 
side of the stud, pull it close up to the inside of the 
ribs, and sustain the pressure by tightly securing the 
thread to^the cramp. When the glue is set, the thread 
can be cut oS quite close to the ribs, and if the operation 
has been successfully accomplished, it requires a person 
with good eyesight to discover the method which has 
been adopted. 

If the edges of the fracture protrude outwards, a 
much more simple plan is adopted. First make all 
necessary adjustments to the cramps, so that they can 
be placed in position immediately. Have at hand the 
felt-covered slips, and also some specially prepared 



wedges. Bun some thin glue into the fracture, wipe 
oS any which oozes to the outside, and adjust the cramps. 
Before much pressure is applied, place a piece of paper 
over the fracture, to absorb any glue which, may still 
ooze from the crack when more pressure is applied, 
and over this place one of the wood slips, so that it 
covers both sides of the fracture ; secure this by a 
wedge placed between the back of the cramp and the 
felted slip, and then apply the necessary 'pressure 
first to the cramp, and then to the wedge, unfS the 
fracture has been closed, and both sides are perfectly 
flush and even. The slip and wedge should be so^ 
arranged that progress can be watched; in this case 
it will be impossible to clean away every trace of glue 
before it sets, but what little oozes out of the joint 
after the preliminary wipe over, is absorbed by the 
paper which is placed between the felted slip of wood 
and the surface of the varnish. 

In all repairs of the foregoing nature the end in view 
is to accomplish the work in such a manner that the 
repair will be scarcely discernible ; me work must 
also be done in such a manner that the tone of the 
instrument'is not impaired, and In a bulky instrument 
like the violoncello it is necessary that the repair shall 
be executed in a strong manner. Many repairers 
line fractures with parchment paper ; it is true that 
Stradivari lined the ribs of some of his violoncellos 
with strips of canvas, but there may have been some 
reason for this, the wood may have been of a particularly 
brittle nature, and it is a well-known facL that the 
Stradivari violoncellos are often quite thin m the ribs. 
I do not think it is wise to follow the Stradivari plan, 


the use of the wooden stud, especially in repairs to 

the table, is much better; bei^des offering greater 

rigidity, it is, not so likely to impede vibration. 

^ A" simple fracture is generally quite easy to repair ; 

more skill is required, however, when a piece of the 

original wood is missing. Here we have the problem 

^ of inserting a piece of new wood which shall match 

the original in grain, tint and— if it be the back or 

- ribs — ^in flame or marking. 

Most repairers keep a good stock of odd pieces of 
maple, sycamore, and pine. These hoards are accumu- 
la^during'alifetuneLm various sources: tiie sound 
boards of old pianos, the interior woodwork of old 
. furniture, odd pieces of wood left over from previous 
repairs, etc., etc. One repairer informed me that on 
one occasion he took out the whole interior of a piece 
of Italian furniture, as it happened to be of a period 
contemporary with Stra^ivarius, and was constructed 
of pine similar to that used by the master. A piece of 
vandalism which some furniture collector would moan 
over at some future date, \i\A which my friend thought 
quite justifiable under the circumstances. '^ Of what 
^ > value is a piece of old Italian wood inside that bureau, 
when a piece of common deal will do just as well % " 

It is wise, therefore, to save all fragments of pine, 
and sycamore or, maple ; they often '' come in '' in 
quite a wonderful manner. Having selected a piece 
of wood of suitable size and thickness for the repair 
in hand, the problem is to insert it in such a manner 
that the repair will be difficult to discern. 

We will imagine that a comer oi the table has been 
knocked off and lost, leaving a jagged rent as diagram 


19. A clean cut must be made in such a manner that 
as little as possible of the original wood is taken away. 
See that the edges are perfectly true and upright. 
Now select a piece of old pine from your hoard, matching 
the reed thread for thread ; at present do not attempt 
any fitting or scooping out, merely fit the threads 
and make two sides perfectly square so that a perfect 
joint will result. The piece of wood to be inserted 
should be left considerably thicker than it will be when 
finished, and its under side should be perfectly fiat. 
This flat surface and the edges will now be glued, and 
the piece pressed into position. Nothing more must 
be done until the glue is quite hard. Experience will 
teU you whether the piece must be cramped into position, 
sometimes it is not advisable to use the cramps at all, 
merely press the piece into position, holding it a moment 
until the glue grips and suction holds the piece in place. 

A glance at diagram 20 will give the state of the work 
at this stage. The second part of the operation is to 
make the new comer match its counterpart. A tracing 
of the opposite comer must now be taken, and the 
outline carefully drawn on the new wood. The super- 
fluous wood should now be carefully trimmed away, 
using a sharp knife, a small gouge, or a half-inch joiner's 
chisel as may be required. Do not get right down to 
the outline and the modelling straight away ; it is so 
easy to chip away a small splinter more than is 
required. Leave the finishing to be done with file and 

At this stage, the question arises as to the advisability 
ot purfling the new comer. The custom in the trade 
is to continue the black lines of the purfling with iitk, 


if tlie damaged area is ol 011I7 small dimonfiions ; should 
it be thought necessary to purfle the comer, the lepail 
takes on a more intricate aspect. 


It is often a difficult matter to match the puifling 
in an old instrument ; the outer lines are often brown — 
not black, and the width of the centre white piece 
is often much narrower than that in modem putfling. 
It can be managed in the following manner. Take 
two strips of pnrfiing a little longer than required, 
and carefully pare away the outer black strip from 


one of the pieces. Now mb down the centre piece of 
this piece of purfling until it exactly matches the centre 
of the inlay of the instrument. Against this doctored 
slip glue the second piece, and put under pressure until 
the glue is set. You will now have a piece of inlay 
composed of five strips, three of which match that 
of the instrument under repair, and two additional 
strips which must be cut away. It is an intricate 
piece of work, and in the attempt to bend it to shape 
it will most likely be damaged. It is as well therefore 
to prepare several slips in readiness. Another tracing 
of the comer should be made, indicating the exact 
shape of the purfling, and the pieces should be bent 
over a hot iron until they are exact to pattern. The 
groove is cut, the purfling inserted, some thin glue 
worked into the channel, and the work again left until 
the glue sets. 

Now comes the difficult problem of tinting down the 
new wood to match the old, and of applying the varnish. 
The plan usually adopted is to stain the piece with 
bi-chromate of potash. I would warn the amateur, 
however, to be aware of this staia, it has a habit of 
darkening to a much deeper shade of brown than is 
required. Repeated tests should be made on odd 
scraps of wood until the right shade is arrived at ; 
and this fact must be taken into consideration : when 
applied, the stain is a brilliant yellow, on exposure 
to diffused light it slowly sinks to a lovely coSee-brown, 
but as soon as it is exposed to strong sunlight the tint 
is further lowered until it is almost black. The shade 
required may not be brown at all ; an orange-coloured 
varnish will sometimes sink into the pine in such a 


manner that the shade of the old wood, when a portion 
is stripped of its varnish, is nearer red than brown. 
A good plan is to obtain some of the finest dry colours ; 
these can be made into a stain with ammonia, and the 
tint carefully matched. As it is the fashion to tint the 
neck of the instrument to match the varnish, it is as 
well to keep in a few stock solutions, say burnt umber, 
yellow ochre, Venetian red, and, perhaps, gamboge ; 
the latter is rather fugitive, but is often used as it is 
transparent. The efEect of the ammonia is to cause 
the stain to sink into the wood, the surface can then 
be sand-papered down until the desired tint is arrived at. 

With respect to the varnish used on these small 
repairs. I may at once say that it is not practicable 
to use an oil varnish. It is impossible to get the depth 
of shade required unless several coats of varnish are 
applied, and the length of time required for the proper 
drying and finishing of an oil varnish rules it out of 
the question. I think all repairers use a spirit varnish. 
If this is well rubbed down, the surface can be brought 
to that stage of dull polish which most old instruments 

The foregoing hints will apply to most repairs to 
the plates. In some cases, however, it is necessary 
to remove the table ; the back should never be removed 
except in the most unusual circumstances. A glance 
at diagrams 21 and 22 will give the method of inserting 
a piece in the centre of the table ; in all such repairs 
the amateur should not spare any pains in the making 
of moulds, templates, etc., etc. When pieces have 
to be fitted into a fractured table it may be necessary 
to build up a complete mould of the interior of the 


table in order that the fractured pieces can be fitted 
together in perfect line with the surface, or so that 
pressure can be applied to the spot under repair. A 
skilful repairer will take four hours making his pre- 
parations for the work, and perhaps only half-an-hour 
over the actual job ; the amateur rushes straight at 
the work, and wonders how it is he cannot obtain the 
same results. These kind of repairs should be under- 
taken in the spirit with which the '^ Portland Vase " 
was restored ; if an instrument is smashed into fifty 
fragments, it is possible, with loving care and skill, to 
restore it so that it may once again be a source of joy 
to some player or collector. Beware of the man who 
says, ** let me fit a new back, or » new table " ; in 
very few cases is the damage so great that a restoration 
cannot be effected. 

An old violoncello is particularly sensitive to the 
kind of strings with which it is fitted, and it is wise 
to devote a little time to this matter. 

In the olden days, the strings were generally much 
too thick, especially the covered strings ; the tendency 
in the present day is to go to the other extreme, and 
I find that many of the 6 strings are too thin. Many 
improv^nents have been made in the manufacture of 
strings, and although it is an advantage to have the 
wire as finely spim as possible, it is not policy to use 
a gut string which is too slight. 

It is wise to use a string gauge, and when the correct 
thickness of string has been ascertained the gauge 
should be noted ; this will simplify the selection of 
suitable strings when they require renewing. 

I am told that Mons. Hollman us^ an A string 


which is aknost as thick as the usual D ; but he is a 
player Tvith a powerful physique, and perhaps his 
violoncello is strongly built, at any rate we all know 
what a fine tone he produces. Discussing this matter 
with my old friend the late Signor Papini, the latter 
said, ^^ I do not think anyone could follow Mons. Holl- 
man's example unless they had his fingers, one must 
select one's instrumenln^d also the strings-according 
to one's physique." Then followed a long discourse 
about the wonderful power of the old players, and some 
interesting particulars about Bottesini, the famouscontra- 
bassist with Whom Papini had several concert tours. 

As a rule, an old ItaUan violonceUo tequires strings 
of only medium thickness, the same applies to any 
old instrument of slight build ; a modem instrument 
can often take a slightiy thicker string, and in fact if a 
modem instrument is fairly thick in the plates, it will 
require thick strings to produce the best tone of which 
the instrument is capable. 

Many young players make the mistake of putting 
on a new set of strings a day or so before a concert. 
It takes quite a time for a new string to settle down, 
and for the bow to wear the string sufficiently to get 
a proper grip. This is more noticeable in the violoncello 
and bass than it is in the violin. I always make it a 
practice to change the Strings periodically, even if 
they do not seem to require it. I never change the 
whole set at one time, but adopt the following plan. 
First, I renew the A string ; then, after a day has 
elapsed, I put on a new D ; when these two strings 
have been fairly tested as to fifths and purity of tone, 
I renew the G and C strings. I always keep an extra 


A string ready stretched. In case of accident, or if it is 
found that constant plajring has worn the A string 
somewhat, tiiie stretched A string can be put on just 
before the concert. 

If the foregoing plan is adopted, the instrument 
is not likely to be disturbed to such a degree, as would 
be the case if the whole set was renewed at one time. 
When once the strings are settled in tune, it will be 
found that they do not vary in pitch with the change 
of atmosphere, as new strings will do, and this is an 
advantage, especially to a soloist. Nothing is more 
disturbing than to find that your C and G strings 
have sharpened, and the A string flattened as soon as 
you are comfortably in the middle of the first movement 
of a concerto. 

Although I never use any kind of oil on my strings, 
I think it is advisable for those who play regularly 
in the orchestra to take whatever care they can of the 
strings. Every trace of perspiration should be carefully 
wiped away after the performance, and a drop of olive 
oil — or some of the special brand of string oil — carefully 
rubbed into the string. 

The best strings to use are those which are not too 
highly polished. Several brands are stocked by dealers ; 
Buffini, Bough Roman, and others sold imder various 
names — ^if of the rough Italian kind — ^should be tried. 
The British Strings, Ltd., make a steel string with a 
special bridge guard. Players in cinemas and theatres 
should try this string, the slightly metallic quality of 
tone-« quaUty sometimes desired in a small orchestra- 
is compensated for by the great durability, and I find 
that harmonics are quite easy to produce. 


I think most of the modem inventions have been 
mentioned. Of patent pegs, the Becker peg had quite 
a vogae for a number of years ; I believe the late August 
Van Biene used this patent peg; the latest improve- 
ment is the " Tuneometer " ; this is on the principle 
of the machine head, but whilst having all the advantages 
of that invention, it has none of its disadvantages. 
It is certainly a boon to those who sufier from slipping 
pegs, and ladies and children find it a great aid to easy 
and correct tuning. 

The End. 


Mr. Arthur Broadley 

invites correspondence on all matters 

apt>ertaining to the Violoncello, its 

construction, j-estoration, and the 

correction of faulty tone. 



BATTLE, Sussex. . 

Violins, Violas, Violoncellos 

Modem Hand-made Instruments of Fine Design, 
Workmanship, and Tone Quality. 




y inner of the First Priie in '^Cobbett Oompeiiiion,'* LondoBt 
1919, for Best Toned Britisli made Yiolin. 


Expert Attention given to Tone Adjustment and 
Alterations of Valuable Instruments. 



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FfaMit 9Mmt latkraBMnta bj Old aad Modtni Mfttfter Makanu 

Gold and SUver Mounted BOWS, GASES, STRINGS, 

by the best makers. 







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BOSWORTH k CO., Ltd.,8, Heddoi St, Begat SL,LOin)ON,W. 1 



LONDON, W.C. 2. 

_^^ Guamerius Withers 

^^^^^'- Walter George Withers 

This old established house, makers of bows, 
violins, and violoncellos since 1765, offers 
intending purchasers a wide selection of 
instruments, superb in tone and of beautiful 
workmanship. Their collection embraces 
many grad^ suited to the requirements of 
the beginner or the master — all of the 
soundest craftsmanship. 


Being large importers of the finest quality 
strings and other accessories, practically 
ail requirements can be met from the 
complete stocks at the service of patrons. 
Catalogues and price lists will be gladly 
forwarded free on application. 

We are also open to purchase old and 
second-hand Instruments for Cash. 

Remember Our Only Address: 


LONDON, :: W.C. 2. 

Established by Norris ^ Barnes Telephone: 

A.D. 1765. Regent 6363. 

Business Hours 9 a.m. till 6.30 p.m. 

Saturdays 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. 


Selected Fine Violoncellos. 

Witli tbe cxpcrienee of many ym of ▼ioloncello coUectiiis. 
mad thm adraatase of inniimarable lottreca of sapply. we are 
able at all timea to pmwidm Old Violoncelloa of faultiest 
types, perfectly restored and reculated. The instraments 
of those Italian makers, noted for tone and still quite 
moderate in priee. as. for instanee, Gagliano, Carcassl. 
Cemti. GofriUer, the best of the French, such as Pierray, 
and Guersan, and later; good malcers of the type of Aldric. 
Clement, and those of our own country, who can f arourably 
compare with the above for the purposes of a first-class 
player,— Banks. Forster. and Fendt'-these instruments we 
can always supply, fuaranteed in the strictest manner, and 
in the finest of condition and playing order. 


84, NEW BOND ST., LONDON, W. 1. 

94 Lee Bank R". BirmintfKim.' 
Henots. '€LLos.&Basses. ]ms[» 




'T^HE peg is rotated by a thumbpiece. Micro- 
-^ meter adjustment of pitch is obtained with 
left hand whilst playing. C.T. is not fixed per- 
manently to 'cello* is put on or taken off in two 
minutes, leaving no marks. No screws. No 
alteration of scroll or pegs. To fix simply 
remove peg, insert into C.T. and retrace peg. 


Peg disengages for purpose of adjusting new 
string expeditiously. Dark bronze and incon- 
spicuous, any number up to four may be used 
independently. No measurements required. 
Mr. A. BROADLEY says:— "I am delighted 
with C.T., etc." Others say "A boon," "A 
great invention," etc., etc. Also 


E. R. WILKINS, 30, Cardiff Road, LUTON. 
16, Dr. Johnson's Passage, Bull Street, BIRMINGHAM. 






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